Who wants to get sick while they’re traveling? Use the travel tips below to avoid any illness.
You arrive at your gate an hour before you are scheduled to board the flight. Moments after you settle into your chair, the jet pulls up to the gate. Passengers pour off. And 30 minutes after the first passenger came off the jetway, you’re walking down that same corridor. Do you really think the plane has been thoroughly sanitized during that brief turnaround? Absolutely not! And have you noticed how many people still fail to cover up a sneeze or wipe their nose and then touch something else? Yuck!
We see stories all the time about how disease spreads through a cruise ship. And I don’t know about you but I am convinced that I have the sniffles every time I take a flight. The five suggestions listed below should help reduce your chances of catching something and help you enjoy an illness-free trip.
Travel Tip 1: Use Hand Sanitizer
This stuff is cheap and effective – stock up! Hand sanitizer dispensers are everywhere – in doctors’ offices, movie theater restrooms, and throughout cruise ships. There is a reason why these dispensers are so popular – they work! For maximum effectiveness, hand sanitizer should be applied liberally and allowed to dry (in other words, don’t wipe it off, just wave your hands). Avoid applying hand sanitizers to visibly dirty hands – sanitizers work best when applied over freshly washed hands (think of it as an insurance policy). Look for hand sanitizers containing at least 60% alcohol. The CDC warns that sanitizers don’t eliminate all germs and cannot get rid of substances like allergens.
Travel Tip 2: Wash Your Hands
No, this isn’t the same thing as using hand sanitizer. Just as we learned when we were kids in school, the best way to avoid getting sick is to wash your hands with regular old water and soap – nothing fancy. The problem is that most people don’t wash their hands properly – you need to get your hands wet, apply soap and build up a lather. Too many people just rub their palms together when you should really be scrubbing between your fingers and the fronts and backs of your hands. To be most effective, hand washing should take at least two minutes (hence the recommendation to sing “Happy Birthday” twice while washing). Basic handwashing is the foundation for avoiding colds, so don’t skimp on this step!
Travel Tip 3: Use Seat Sitters
Full disclosure: I received a complimentary Seat Sitters package to evaluate but the opinions in this post are my own.
The Seat Sitters package contains:
- Re-usable seat cover
- Allergy mask
- Tray table cover
- Two wipes
- Two crayons
- An allergy sticker
This product sells for $14.99 and is touted as creating a germ-free oasis for travelers and movie goers. The biggest benefit of Seat Sitters would be for people with touch allergies.
In all honesty, most of the plane seats I’ve seen lately are made of a non-porous material, so a wipe is probably sufficient for cleaning the surface. However, if the seat is covered in fabric (which is why I think the marketing for movie theater seats is brilliant), then the seat cover becomes useful.
The inclusion of two wipes is also a great idea. While the seat and tray table covers provide a physical barrier to germs and allergens, they don’t cover all the surfaces you might touch. The wipes can be used to wipe down the armrests and the seatbelt.
I tried on the mask. Plenty of people wear them on TV or in medical facilities, but for me, it was a little awkward. Breathing through fabric felt hard (probably psychological) and I felt it was a bit excessive . Perhaps I should be more concerned about my own health but I would feel “rude” about putting on a mask after noticing someone sneezing near me, so I would suggest putting it on before anyone sits next to you.
Travel Tip 4: Be Careful of Local Water and Food
Ever hear of Montezuma’s revenge? Bacteria occurs naturally in water, but not every country filters their water in the same way. So while the general recommendation to avoid the water is good advice, there are some hidden dangers. Most of us will avoid drinking water out of the tap, but the ice in your drink is probably made from tap water and may well harbor bacteria that your immune system isn’t used to. Likewise, the water used to wash your fruits and vegetables can also be an issue. The problem is that your system is just not used to these bacteria and while resistance can be built up over time, you don’t want to risk it on your vacation. Use bottled or filtered water, avoid ice, and peel fruits and vegetables before eating them. Don’t get me wrong – enjoying the local flavors is one of the best parts of travel! Just be careful!
Travel Tip 5: Get Vaccinated
The CDC recommends specific vaccines depending on your travel destination. Think of it as preparing adequately – you would pack a coat for a cold destination or sunscreen for a sunny vacation. If you know that your travel destination experiences a lot of typhoid fever , wouldn’t you want to protect yourself from a possible infection? You can find a full list of recommendations at https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/list/. Schedule an appointment with your primary doctor to get the vaccine. Many Urgent Care centers or clinics at places like CVS also provide these shots. You may want to check in advance with the staff that they stock the particular vaccine you need. Plan ahead – malaria pills, for example, have to be taken for 30 days in advance of your trip.
How have you protected yourself from illness while traveling?
Annick, The Common Traveler