Did you know that airborne and forborne germs are not the only reasons you can get sick when you travel?
Surfaces harbor germs too, including the surface of your hands. Yes, your hands become “fomites,” meaning they are an object that can carry and transfer germs and those germs can make you sick. And getting sick when you travel is easy to do.
Your hands pick up the germs when they touch surfaces like elevator railings, door handles, tray tables, other people's hands... you name it. When you're traveling, your hands are touching all sorts of public surfaces.
The Summer Travel Season is here, and You Need Your Travel Gear Ready!
Whether it's a road trip or international air travel, you'll be out in very public places touching all sorts of public surfaces.
Remember, illness causing germs on public surfaces will be picked up by your hands. Be ready.
Travel with hand-sanitizer wipes - always! When traveling, the minute you settle into your seat, take out a sanitizing wipe and wipe down the arm rest, remote, seat belt clip, and all hard buttons or structures you touch on your seat. Then discard the wipe. Use a new one for your hands.
I learned this years ago the hard way - with pink eye! Yep, driving home from the airport my right eye started to get that irritated sticky feeling that's never good. Within 24 hours, I had full blown - and highly contagious - pink eye.
The germ must have been left on something I touched on the airporter van, in the airports or on the flight. Who knows where I got it, but I do know that I was not sanitizer-wipe savvy. Yes, I was hand-washing savvy but not sanitizer wipe savvy.
We all know about the cold and flus that complement travel and adventure.
Germs may be in the air, but they are often spread on surfaces (fomites) too. Yep. Those people coughing and sneezing are also sending the bacteria and viruses through the air. Those droplets land somewhere - including the stuff you touch. Consider your hands fomites and protect yourself during travel.
As a dermatologist whose vision of the world often starts with the skin, here are my travel recommendations to help reduce the risk of getting ill from touching contagious germs:
- Travel with sanitizing wipes and wipe down your seat once you settle into your place on the plane, train or other mode of transportation.
- In airports, taxis and getting to and from your plane, train etc., try very hard not to touch surfaces. The fewer things you touch, the lower the chance of a germ hitching a ride on your hands.
- Unless you just washed your hands, try NOT to touch your eyes, nose or mouth with them. These are your “portals of entry” - the ways that infectious germs "get in" and make you ill.
- Carry facial tissues (Kleenex or other) and use them if you need to rub your eye or touch your nose and you're not able to wash your hands first. Discard the tissue because the hand side may now be a fomite. If you are traveling by air, remember that airplane air is drying. Be prepared. You're going to want to hydrate lips and skin to keep them comfortable.
- Carry a lip balm stick that you do NOT dip your fingers into.
- Bring a small mist water spray or mister you fill with bottled water (never bathroom water) and mist your face. Use freshly-washed hands to then apply a hyaluronic acid serum or cream and/or a facial oil or more oil-based cream to prevent skin dryness.
- Use a hand cream to moisturize your hands after washing them.