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Germs are the hidden peril of air travel

Here's something to brighten up your summer travel prospects. Airports and airplanes are major gathering places for microbes from around the world.

That's the word from a man who should know, Peter J. Sheldon Sr., a vice president with the Coverall Health-Based Cleaning System, an institutional cleaning company.

Nothing ruins a trip more than spending it in bed with a bug you picked up during the journey. And there's no better way to spread them than pack a lot of people into a small place.

So be cautious and take steps to stay well, Sheldon said. The first line of defense, is to carry a hand sanitizer and alcohol wipes. Then, know the favorite places where germs and viruses linger.

1. The airplane toilet: The airplane washroom is the germiest place on a trip, or for that matter, any toilet in a transportation hub. E. coli and other infectious agents can be on any surface. The tiny sink, door handles, even the paper dispensers have germs. The facilities' devices are rarely cleaned adequately between flights, especially continuing flights.

Advice: Avoid using the airplane restroom. If you must, use paper towels to turn faucets on and off and to open the door. Close the lid of the toilet before flushing. Carry sanitizing wipes and use them when you exit.

2. Onboard magazines: Passengers don't wash their hands before reading an airplane magazine, and often they lick their fingers as they turn the page.

Advice: Bring your own reading material and avoid touching anything on the back of the seat except the emergency evacuation instructions. Use the alcohol wipes.

3. Water fountains: Public drinking fountains can harbor as many as 2.7 million bacteria per square inch on the spigot.

Advice: Buy water from vendors in the terminal. On the airplane, ask for bottled water from the beverage cart as onboard tap water can carry microbes.

4. The airline pillows and blankets: Of 100 pillows and blankets on an airplane, five will be contaminated with cold or flu viruses from coughs, sneezes or drool, says Sheldon.

Advice: Rather than risk the dice throw of onboard pillows and blankets, bring your own U-shaped neck pillow. Or, wear an extra layer of clothing if you're prone to chills. Use your coat as a blanket and ball up that sweater for a pillow.

5. The security line: No one itches to walk through an airport security line, but you may be itching afterward if you let your feet go commando.

Advice: Always wear socks when traveling to avoid barefoot time. Wear sturdy shoes on the flight in case of emergencies.

Germs are the hidden peril of air travel 06/15/12 [Last modified: Friday, June 15, 2012 5:30am]

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