Planes, Trains, and …Germs?
Travel Health Risks You Can -- and Can't - Avoid
Is There a Health Risk From Pillows, Blankets, and Tray Tables? continued...
DeHart, a frequent flier just back from a trip to Asia, doesn't worry about
pillows or blankets, either.
"These blankets and stuff are pretty well cleaned. I don't know in the
medical literature of any spread from a fomite like that," he says.
"You can't say this hasn't happened. But I don't worry about it. I will
certainly use a blanket to stay warm and cozy so I feel like going to sleep.
Although usually I use my own air pillow because it adjusts."
If you're going to worry about contamination on airplanes, shift your focus
from the overhead compartment to the onboard water system. A recent EPA study
found coliform bacteria - germs associated with feces - in
in 17% of airplanes
Every expert tells WebMD the same thing: The best way to protect yourself
against germs is to wash your hands. Hand washing removes viruses as well as
bacteria. Of course, it gets complicated if the water you wash with is itself
Gendreau has a solution. He carries a portable bottle of alcohol-based
hand-sterilizing gel. The gel isn't as good at killing viruses as soap and
water. So Gendreau washes his hands - then uses the gel.
"What I typically do is wash my hands a lot. If you're going to get
something through a seat table, pillow, or what not, washing your hands is the
way to minimize your risk," he says. "You wash in that washroom, but
what is the coliform content on your hands now? So that is why I slap on the
alcohol gel. Within 10 seconds it kills all the bacteria."
DeHart has more tips.
"Be healthy and rested before making a flight," he says. "If you
already are coughing and under the weather, you will be worse after flying. So
you need to have taken good care of yourself, and ensure you are taking the
medications you should be taking. If you have any question of health -- your
heart, particularly -- check with your doctor before flying. And as you're
flying, you need to hydrate as much as you can. The flight crews are good at
distributing water. You should drink that, and take a bottle or two yourself on
board. Hydration is a must."
Off on a Cruise, the Germs Don't Snooze
If airplane ventilation has you worried, maybe you're thinking of taking an
ocean liner instead. After all, there's a lot of fresh air out on the open
seas, isn't there?
Of course there is. That may be one reason why 9.4 million people last year
sailed out of U.S. ports.
With a change in transportation mode come changes in disease risk, DeHart