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3 ways to avoid germs during travel

Germs spread from person to person, and the more people around usually means a greater risk of exposure to germs.

So, when you’re packing your luggage, don’t forget to bring along some good hygiene for your travels.

“It is common for people to get sick while on road and airplane trips,” said Amy L. Hammons, MD, a family medicine physician on the medical staff Scott & White Medical Center – Temple.

Where Are Germs Hiding?

When you are on trips you are likely to spend more time around other people and frequent crowded places like restaurants and rest stops. The most common way germs are transferred is from touching surfaces contaminated with germs.

“Airplane travel has gotten a bad reputation because of concerns about poor air quality and the possibility of greater risks of airborne infections due to recirculation cabin air,” Dr. Hammons said. “But actually your risk is at least as high on a crowded bus as it is on an airplane.”

How to Avoid Germs

Dr. Hammons shares three ways to avoid germs while traveling.

1. Practice good hand hygiene.

  • Wash your hands often, especially before eating.
  • After washing your hands in a bathroom, you should turn off the faucet with a paper towel and use a dry one to open the door.
  • If soap and water aren’t available, clean hands with hand sanitizer (containing at least 60% alcohol).
  • Don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • If you need to touch your face, make sure your hands are clean.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Try to avoid contact with people who are sick.
  • If you are sick, stay home or in your hotel room, unless you need medical care.

“Germs linger longer on nonporous materials like plastic and bathrooms surfaces,” Dr. Hammons said. “Be sure to wipe down surfaces like tray tables, seat armrests, and lavatory handles alcohol-based wipes or gel before using them.”

It can be difficult to steer clear of these surfaces, but good hand hygiene and frequent washing can help you avoid these pesky germs.

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2. Stay up to date on your immunizations.

Another way to stay clear of lingering germs is to stay on schedule with your immunizations. This goes for both children and adults.

“It is the beginning of flu season and getting your flu shot can significantly lessen your risk of getting the flu,” Dr. Hammons said.

Kids can be exposed while traveling to preventable diseases like whooping cough and measles.  Be sure your child has had all routine vaccinations at the scheduled times appropriate for that child’s age.

3. Make an appointment to see your doctor before traveling abroad.

Many countries require proof of immunizations for diseases which are common to those areas.  This can help you avoid serious germs that you may not be aware of in other states or countries.

The CDC.gov website is a great resource where you can plug in your destination and the type of traveler you are like whether you are traveling with children, on a cruise, a missionary or pregnant.  The CDC will then give you information about recommended vaccines and other helpful hints about traveling specifically to your destination and type of travel.

“Also you may need prophylactic prescription medications to prevent diseases from your doctor such as those for malaria and traveler’s diarrhea,” Dr. Hammons said. “So it is a good idea to check in with your family doctor at least two weeks before embarking to international destinations to see if your need any specific pre-travel disease prevention.”

Most of all, be sure to enjoy your trip away. Staying healthy will lead to a happy vacation. Bon voyage!

About the author

Jill Taylor
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I contribute content and skills as a freelance writer for Baylor Scott & White Health. I enjoy improving our connection with our readers, patients and communities by assisting with a wide range of writing projects.

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3 ways to avoid germs during travel