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The Germiest Places in the Airport and on Your Flight

Millions of people pass through airports every year, and they're leaving germs everywhere. To get the scoop on the filfiest spots on the ground and in the sky, we spoke with Diane Emo, Marketing Vice President for Coverall Health-Based Cleaning System, who knows thing or two about germs. One thing's for sure: After this interview, we'll be making room in our 3-1-1 liquids bag for hand sanitizer!

Where is the number-one germiest place in the airport?

When you’re traveling by air, try to use the bathroom before you get on the plane. Bar none, the germiest place on an airplane is the restroom. Because they are not cleaned during flights or on continuing flights, germs and bacteria are everywhere. Studies have found E. coli on almost every surface—including the toilet, hand rails, sink area, and door.

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What other places in the airport accumulate a lot of germs?

Any surface will collect germs, especially given the number of people walking through the airport and touching things. Door handles, tables, elevator buttons, hand rails, and other high-touch items are often covered with nasty stuff and may not be hygienically cleaned.

What steps can passengers take to stay clean while going through the airport?

The best advice is to do what your mother told you to do—wash your hands thoroughly and often with soap and water. Avoid touching your eyes and nose. Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze. And carry hand sanitizer for use between hand washings.

What can passengers do to stay clean in the airport security line?

Wear socks through the security line instead of walking bare foot, which can increase your risk of picking up diseases. Children 12 and under are no longer required to remove their shoes to go through airport security, so that adds one more way to help protect your kids.

Are hand-sanitizers effective in protecting passengers against germs?

Hand sanitizers are recommended when hand washing with soap and water is not an option. They are a good back-up plan and easy for children to use. Also carry disinfecting wipes if possible. I use them on the tray table as a standard rule.

Do airports have more germs than planes?

Both airports and airplanes are transfer stations for large numbers or people and for the germs they carry. They both present a vast number of opportunities for harmful germs to find a surface and live there. In any place where there are a lot of people and a lot of surfaces to touch, there will be more germs. That goes the same for your workplace, workout facility, doctor’s office, favorite restaurant, and other common places that most of us visit in our daily lives.

Readers, what's your strategy for staying healthy while traveling? Tell us in the comments!

Read comments or add your own insight!
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