I found an interesting article while checking out the CNN website this weekend written by Elizabeth Cohen, CNN Medical Correspondent on five ways to avoid germs while traveling. The tips come from Dr. Mark Gendreau, a senior staff physician at the Lahey Clinic in Burlington, Massachusetts, who has been studying germiness while traveling.
1. Sit toward the front of the airplane
According to Dr. Gendreau, there is better airflow from the ventilation system in the front of the aircraft. Of course first class is the best place to sit since there is less of the squish factor and more room there.
Although I no longer have elite status on Continental, which makes sitting closer to the front of the plane difficult at times, I have tried to sit closer to the front whenever possible. I will probably try a little harder in the future.
2. Don't drink coffee or tea on an airplane
The EPA advises anyone with a suppressed immune system or anyone who's "concerned" about bacteria to refrain from drinking coffee or tea on an airplane.
According to this article and the EPA’s Web site: "While boiling water for one minute will remove pathogens from drinking water, the water used to prepare coffee and tea aboard a plane is not generally brought to a sufficiently high temperature to guarantee that pathogens are killed,"
Even more scary, “According to the EPA, out of 7,812 water samples taken from 2,316 aircraft, 2.8 percent were positive for coliform bacteria.”
I was aware about not drinking tap water, and even take bottled water in to the bathroom with me when I brush my teeth, but I was unaware that the boiled water for coffee and tea was not safe.
3. Sanitize your hands after leaving an airplane bathroom
Charles Gerba, an environmental microbiologist at the University of Arizona who's also known as "Dr. Germ” says a toilet on an airplane "is among the germiest that you will encounter almost anywhere."
Dr. Germ goes on to say, "You have 50 people per toilet, unless you are flying a discount airline; then it is 75. We always find E. coli on surfaces in airplane restrooms."
One point for me! I have been well aware that airplane toilets are full of germs. Not only do I wash my hands, but I use my little bottle of hand sanitizer to sanitize my hands as double protection after returning to my seat.
4. Wash or sanitize your hands after getting off an escalator
I never thought about the escalator as a germ breeding area before. Although this article is specifically about traveling, sanitizing your hands after touching all escalator handrails would be a good idea as a way of avoiding germs.
5. Wash or sanitize your hands after using an ATM
I sort of knew this one but have not been good about the hand sanitizer also in this situation. I also recently saw a news clip saying that germs can stay on money for up to 17 days! That sure makes avoiding germs more difficult.
Gendreau sums up how to keep healthy in six words: "hand hygiene, hand hygiene, hand hygiene."
Check out the full article, Five ways to avoid germs while traveling, for more information on the wonderful world of germs.