How to protect yourself from germs and avoid them when traveling

Germs, all around us. How to protect yourself from germs when travelling?

Regardless of the purpose of the trips, they can be stressful. Thus, whether they are done in the interest of service or involve a long-term vacation, the fear of illness can be persistent and is even founded in some cases. Unfortunately, germs can be found on all objects around a person, from door handles to restaurant menus.

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Bacteria resistant to treatment

According to a specialized study conducted in 2018, it was found that plastic trays used in the areas of security controls at airports accommodate more germs than even the handles of toilets or buttons for drawing water. Also, the list of disease-causing bacteria found on different surfaces can sound daunting, containing microorganisms, such as staphylococci, Bacillus spp., Escherichia coli or different bacteria resistant to treatment.

Objects commonly touched by humans can indeed accumulate a great diversity of germs, some of them potentially harmful. However, certain actions can be taken to protect health during travel. The various objects around a person cannot be avoided endlessly, but the contact of the hands with the eyes, nose and mouth can be controlled more easily. Also, hand hygiene or washing is another method that can help reduce the transmission of different diseases.

What are the most contaminated places?

The places most contaminated with germs are those that come into contact with people’s hands very often. However, some of the most loaded surfaces are those that are unintentionally touched and that many people would not think about. Thus, experts suggest that additional precautions should be taken when it comes to trays for airport objects, subway bars, restaurant menus and, in particular, surfaces or objects in hotel rooms.

In a specialized study, the researchers investigated bacteria found on 18 different surfaces in hotel rooms. In this study, it was found that about 81% of the analyzed surfaces were contaminated with faecal bacteria. The most incriminated objects were represented by:

  • TV remote;
  • Toilet and washbasin in the bathroom;
  • The switches;
  • Carpets;
  • The telephone in the hotel room.

Surprisingly, fewer bacteria were detected in the door handles of the toilet than in the previous surfaces. It was also found that many of the trolleys and vials containing cleaning substances were contaminated with harmful germs.

Even if the studies are small, experts believe that prevention is much better than treatment. Thus, they recommend adopting safety measures to protect people from unnecessary infections and diseases. For example, it is recommended simple methods, such as avoiding leaving clothes or towels directly on the floor or toothbrush directly on the surfaces of the bathroom.

Methods of protection

The best method of protection against germs encountered during travel, but also in daily activities, is the regular washing of hands. However, hand washing should not be superficial, but energetic and firm, so that all areas are clean. Keeping hand sanitizers handy can be a temporary solution and should be kept in mind that they do not replace a proper wash.

Specialists recommend that antibacterial towels be placed in the luggage so that the surfaces of the hotel rooms can be removed before being used. Also, it is recommended to eat food from restaurants that appear clean and that use safe food handling processes. Besides, it is indicated to check and clean the refrigerators in the rooms before storing food in them.

Experts remind travellers to ask the competent institutions in their country if there are vaccines needed in the country where the trip is to be made. Some of the most common diseases that require vaccines and prophylactic treatment sessions before travel are:

  • Malaria;
  • Yellow fever;
  • Dengue fever;
  • Hepatitis.

Many of the diseases contracted during travel are transmitted by insects and water. Thus, it is recommended the use of protective nets and clothes, but also the consumption of water only from safe sources. Also, before going on a trip, it is indicated to check the levels of risk regarding the diseases in progress in the country that is to be visited. The accessibility to medical assistance in the respective country must be analyzed.

Even if all these safety measures have been taken, there is still a stage that could involve a high risk of contact with certain germs, that is, flight by plane.

Many flights are long and involve the state in the same room with many people. In a specialized study conducted in 2018, an attempt was made to evaluate the behaviours of passengers and flight attendants during 10 transcontinental trips. Utilizing these evaluations, it was desired to analyze and estimate the risk of spread of germs in the air.

The study indicated that the chances of infectious diseases being transmitted to large numbers of passengers are low. Thus, a person who is sick and coughing could infect people with one row in front and one row behind him.

However, if the sick person is a flight attendant, the risk of contaminating a larger number of people is much higher. Also, it has been emphasized that the greater risk of illness is just before people get on the plane because they come in contact with much more contaminated objects, such as the door handles of the toilets.

To avoid contracting the flu or cold, some specialists recommend the use of antiseptic napkins on the surfaces encountered before boarding and in the plane. For example, towels of this type can be used on seat belts, armrests, windows and air vents.

Also, when there is an increased risk of getting the flu, doctors recommend getting the flu shot and avoiding the community. However, when travel cannot be delayed, wearing a protective mask can help filter out some of the most dangerous viruses and bacteria.

Increased immunity before travels

Germs cause infections when the body cannot effectively remove them. However, if the immunity is low, and the trip follows in a few days, there are not too many solutions, apart from optimal hydration and sufficient rest. The extra intake of vitamins will not hurt, but it is unlikely to help a few days before the trip.

In general, the use of vitamins and minerals is useful and helps to improve the immune system, but the results will be observed over time. To have an incident-free journey on certain infectious diseases, the specialists recommend simple but effective methods, such as:

  • Adopting an optimal resting program;
  • Keeping a healthy routine and without stressors;
  • Consumption of a high quantity of liquids;
  • Consumption of a balanced diet rich in fibre and omega-3;
  • Frequent and correct washing of hands.