Getting sick when you travel: It’s probably happened to all of us at one time or another. Whether they’re found in the less-than-sanitary conditions of an airplane or a hotel room, germs lurk everywhere and it takes vigilance to avoid getting sick when you travel.
Airplanes and hotels are notorious breeding grounds for nasty germs. It’s no surprise when you think of the number of people who have sat in your airplane seat or who have checked into your hotel room before you. And unfortunately, plenty of studies have shown that even when they’ve been cleaned, airplanes and hotel rooms are still pretty gross. In fact, research conducted by TravelMath indicates that the average hotel room is dirtier than a typical home, an airplane and even a school.
But don’t let your next trip be ruined by an unwelcome bug that leaves you feeling awful. These healthy habits will help you avoid getting sick so you can get on with the serious business of enjoying your travels.
Wipe everything down with antibacterial wipes
Pretty much everyone will agree that one thing every traveler should stash in their bag is antibacterial wipes. They can be used to quickly sanitize everything you touch. On an airplane, wipe down the tray table, arm rests, buttons, seat belt, window shade and air vent knobs. In a hotel room, wipe down door handles, light switches and remote controls. You might even want to wipe down the hair dryer since an in-depth investigation by ABC News revealed that it rivals the TV remote as the dirtiest thing in a hotel room. Better yet, just bring your own hair dryer if you have room in your suitcase.
Don’t use the airplane seatback pocket
While the seatback pocket on an airplane may seem like a handy compartment to store things you’ll be using in-flight, you might want to think twice about it to avoid getting sick when you travel. Many passengers treat that pocket like a waste basket, using it to dispose of their trash, used tissues, and even dirty diapers. Since it’s unlikely that cleaning crews are thoroughly disinfecting each seatback pocket, it’s best to avoid them altogether.
Wash your hands frequently
No matter how careful you are, your hands are bound to get filthy when you travel. Everything you touch is potentially carrying something you don’t want. Make sure you wash your hands frequently to get rid of any germs.
Don’t touch your face
And speaking of hands, keep them away from your face, especially your mouth, nose and eyes. If you’ve picked up a bug from shaking someone’s hand or hanging onto a bus or subway pole, the germs linger on your hands. When you then touch your face (eyes, mouth or nose), you increase the chances of that bug transferring from your skin to a mucous membrane where it can thrive and cause illness.
Travel with products that will help you stay healthy
Travel experts know a thing or two about staying healthy on the road, so what products do they never leave home without? Sarah Schlichter of Smarter Travel recommends a nasal mist to help fend off viruses and this CNN article recommends immune system support supplements like Vitamin C packets that you can easily add to water. Travel expert Johnny Jet recommends using the Scough if you want to cover your mouth and nose but don’t want to wear a surgical mask. The Scough is a scarf with a built-in filter that’s perfect if you’re sitting beside someone who’s sick and you want to discreetly protect yourself.
Keep airplane air vent on
You may be prone to turning off the air vent above you on an airplane because you think it’s circulating stale air or because you’re cold. But according to this Travel & Leisure article, that might be a mistake. Their interview with Dr. Mark Gendreau—the medical director and vice chair of emergency medicine at Lahey Medical Center-Peabody and an expert on the spread of infectious diseases associated with air travel–revealed that “using that tiny vent can actually work to your advantage, as it can help you avoid contact with certain microorganisms that can get you sick during a flight.”
Bring your own blanket and pillow
These days, many travelers try to travel with only a carry-on to avoid baggage fees, which means eliminating a lot of excess stuff. But you might want to consider carrying your own blanket and pillow on the plane with you, too. While it’s difficult to pass judgment on all blankets and pillows on all airlines, it’s probably a safe bet that they’re not as clean as your own personal items. So the next time you try to get cozy and catch some sleep on a flight, use your own blanket and pillow so you don’t need to worry about the cleanliness of the airline’s.
Don’t drink tea or coffee in-flight
A good cup of tea or coffee can start your morning right … but maybe not on an airplane. According to Business Insider, the water for tea and coffee comes not from bottles but from the tap and that many airplanes fail the Environmental Protection Agency’s standards for water safety. EPA studies have found coliform and E.coli in the water on some aircrafts. Plus, the coffee and tea served in-flight is not brewed to a boiling point, which would kill off bacteria. So, skip the lukewarm bevvie and wait until you’ve landed to get a good, hot cuppa.