5 germiest places in an airport and on a plane

5 germiest places in an airport and on a plane

BY AMY BERTRAND • abertrand@post-dispatch.com

J. B. Forbes 2/27/09 Friday St.Louis Betty Brooks, left, a Behavior Detection Officer with the Transportation Security Administration, watches passengers checking in Friday at the security area of Lambert International Airport. Brooks is trained to look for certain behaviors that cause additional screening of passengers. (We could not show Brooks’s face.) J.B. Forbes | Post-Dispatch
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Public places are full of germs. We all know that. Did you know that one of the germiest places is an airport or on an airplane? No wonder, considering all the people passing through, grabbing rails, using water fountains, crammed into that little plane and trying to use that little restroom.

Peter Sheldon, vice president of operations and development for Coverall Health-Based Cleaning System, has come up with a list of the germiest places in airports and on airplanes and some tips for avoiding the germs.

1) The airplane bathroom-With anywhere from 50 to 75 users per toilet, the airplane washroom is hands-down the germiest place on the trip. Numerous studies have shown that these are teeming with E. coli on almost every surface. Because they are rarely sanitized between flights, there is also the cumulative effect of hundreds of users before it gets a good scrubbing. The tiny sink makes it nearly impossible to thoroughly wash your hands, and those who manage it are instantly greeted by the germy door handle upon departure.

Steer Clear: Avoid using the on-board facilities if at all possible. If you must, use a paper towel to turn faucets off and on, to close the lid before flushing (always a good idea, even at home) and to open the door. Carry sanitizing wipes in your pocket and use them thoroughly and immediately upon exit. Back at your seat, repeat sanitizing if you’ve touched anything along the way.

2) The onboard magazines – Studies show that many people don’t bother to wash their hands at all, even when using the aforementioned germiest of germy places-the airplane restroom. One study found that as many as 30 percent don’t wash up after using the airport restroom either. Add in the usual coughs, sneezes and runny noses that carry thousands of germs to every surface, and those magazines and catalogs in the seat back pocket are a virtual biohazard. And, how many times have you seen someone absentmindedly lick their finger to help turn the page?

Steer Clear: Bring your own reading material and avoid touching anything in that seatback pocket unless you absolutely must refer to the emergency evacuation instructions in the event of an actual emergency.

3) The water fountain – Between the high cost of beverages in the terminal and new FAA rules that disallow liquid containers over a certain size, it may be tempting to drink from the public fountain, or to refill an empty bottle here rather than buy a new one. Don’t do it. Public drinking fountains can harbor as many as 2.7 million bacteria per square inch on the spigot. It’s not worth the risk to save a few bucks

Steer Clear: Bring water from home in small bottles. In most cases, as long as they are still sealed, security officials will allow you to pass through with no problem. If you’re unsure, or want to avoid the extra weight in your carry-on, buy one from a vendor in the terminal. Once onboard the plane, ask for bottled water from the beverage cart.

4) The airline pillows and blankets-On a typical flight with 100 passengers, statistics show that about five will be ill with a cold or the flu. Zonked out on cold medicine, these folks might enjoy a cozy nap with their airline pillow and blankie. But, upon touchdown, rapid clean-ups between flights means that when you board, there’s a good chance you could be using a pillow that’s been drooled or sneezed on within the past hour.

Steer Clear: Say “No Thanks!” to germy airline pillows and blankets and bring your own. U-shaped neck pillows can be quite comfortable and keep you from drifting into neighboring passengers’ personal space. Or, if you’re cramped for suitcase space, throw some clothes into a pillow case at home, tie it shut and bring that along to rest your head. Wear or carry an extra layer (like a sweater or light jacket).

5) The security line-You know the drill: shoes off, empty your pockets into the bin, put your carryon on the belt. As you stroll barefooted through the security checkpoint, have you considered the millions who have gone before you? Athlete’s foot and other fungal infections can easily be left behind, just waiting for their next host.

Steer Clear: Always wear socks when traveling to avoid going barefoot through the security checkpoint. In fact, it’s a good idea to wear sturdy shoes, so that you’ll be better prepared in the event of an emergency landing or other onboard situation. Plus, you won’t have to worry about blowing out a flip flop as you run to your gate.

Copyright 2011 STLtoday.com. All rights reserved.


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