Parents' guide: Common virus hot spots in an airport
By knowing what these hot spots are, you can take precautionary measures to keep your family safe while traveling.
A family getaway to another country is always exciting. But with all this excitement of traveling, we give little thought to the fact that airports might actually be a hub for diseases. After all, the last thing you want is for your kids to pick up a nasty infection from the airport and ruin the whole holiday, right? This is why parents must know what the dirtiest place in airports to avoid.
What are the dirtiest place in airports?
Public areas like airports are inevitably strewn with bacteria and viruses. Numerous people — including your kids — are exposed to these potentially harmful pathogens in airplanes, waiting lounges and restrooms each day.
As quoted from Travel+Leisure, Dr. Alison Galdy, of the University of Minnesota Infection Prevention, stresses that “flying probably accelerated the spread of the H1N1 virus in 2009.”
There are some viral hot spots in airports which traveling families should try and avoid touching, including:
- bathroom handles or doorknobs
- chair armrests in the airport or plane
- kiosk screens
- and handrails of stairs and escalators.
However, by far the dirtiest place in airports would be the trays officers use while screening for prohibited items.
That’s because airplane passengers can throw away anything into them – from toothbrushes to even their baby’s diapers – routinely.
Top top it off, these trays are also hardly ever sanitized.
Tips for traveling families avoid potential pathogens in airports
Brenda Powell, MD is a travel medicine expert from America. She explains that aboard the plane, people are “constantly touching stuff that hundreds of other people are touching, and a cold virus can live on an inanimate object for quite a while.”
According to Mayo Clinic, the flu virus is a hardy pathogen. It can survive on harsh surfaces like stainless steel, plastic and other hard materials for over 48 hours. That raises the risk of viral transmissions to humans from unprotected exposure.
How then, should we keep ourselves protected from potential illnesses at airports? Here are some tips you can follow to reduce the risk of contracting the flu.
Avoid touching surfaces on the plane and airports
- Avoid touching the doorknob before or after using airplane or airport toilets. Instead, grab a paper towel and use it to open the door knob to exit the bathroom.
- Another thing to avoid holding on to is the seats as you walk down the plane aisle. If you don’t have any other choice but to hold the seat to stabilize yourself, apply some hand sanitizer immediately once you get back to your seat.
- Wash your hands whenever you have the chance to do so.
- Another surface you shouldn’t touch is the skin of your face. Touching your face disseminates germs quickly. And people do touch their faces a lot without knowing it – as much as three to five times each hour.
- Don’t touch your eyes and mouth either. Viruses can be quickly transmitted after touching a contaminated surface (e.g. a toilet tap) followed by touching your mouth or eyes.
- If you are ill but have to travel, try your best to cough into your elbow and not onto your hands.
Improve your defenses
It’s very likely that all the plane seats are filled during peak season or holidays. That might mean you can’t change seats — but what if your the passenger beside you is sick?
However, that doesn’t mean you will contract diseases like the flu. The best thing to do is to improve your defenses: “The best offense is always a good defense,” says Powell. You can try using the following tips:
- Puff some saline nasal spray before take off and after landing. “The plane air is so dry and that dries out your mucus membranes, which reduces your resistance to infection, but keeping these membranes moist with saline spray may help,” explains Powell.
- Use a neti pot. Neti pots are ceramic pots which contain a salt water solution and can be used to flush out the contents of the nasal cavity, like any viruses or pollen you may have inside after the flight.
- Wear a face mask, as it provides “some protection for other passengers if you are sick, or for you if other passengers are ill,” says Powell.
Parents, we hope that this article on the dirtiest place in airports has helped you make better hygiene practices while traveling by plane. Have any thoughts? Share them in the comments below!