“80% of disease is caught by direct or indirect contact – either interacting with a person who carries germs or touching a surface where those organisms live.”
Philip Tierno, PhD director of clinical microbiology at New York University Medical School
Germs come from us and places used or visited by lots of people will have a lot of microbes. Since germs can live on surfaces from hours to months, they can be transferred from person-to-person or surface-to-surface.
Many of these encounters can be mitigated with simple safeguards.
Let’s review your typical commute to work or travel day along with tips to help avoid some of the more common hotspots for germs.
YOUR DAILY COMMUTE. “If you commute via bus or subway, you are six times more likely to get sick than if you walk or drive. Why? Simply because you come into contact with many more people and their germs”, says Charles Gerba, Microbiologist at University of Arizona.
Tips: Sanitize and/or your hands thoroughly after exiting the bus or metro. The CDC recommends lathering hands with soap and scrubbing for at least 20 seconds before rinsing.
PLANES & TRAINS. Like most public transportation, airplanes (and trains) are filled with germs. There’s no getting around that. Whenever you pack a lot of people in a tight space for a few hours – especially one with limited air flow – germ buildup is inevitable.
What to watch out for?
- Seat Pockets: Studies show that seat pockets are one of the worst offenders when it comes to germs. Why? Passengers use seat pockets as a trash bin rather than a storage holder. From used tissues to dirty diapers, people stuff all kinds of germ-infested materials into seat pockets. Auburn University researchers found MRSA could survive in the seat pocket material for up to 168 hours. Theoretically, that’s a lot of time for multiple passengers to contract this menacing infection.
TIP: If you need somewhere to stash your water bottle or device, avoid the seat pocket. It’s just not worth the risk. Stow your things in a protective carry-on bag with silver-ion technology that inhibits germs or, if they’re small enough, store your essentials like a smartphone in a protective pouch. The Backpack, Bennett Bag Carry All and ZipPockets from ThePureBag are ideal for toting your travel items.
- Tray Tables: Travelmath’s researchers found that tray tables have the highest number of colony-forming units per square inch – a staggering 2,155. And Auburn University’s researchers found these bacteria can survive for up to three days on that plastic tray table. Like the seat pocket, people use tray tables “inappropriately.” People stick gum to them and some even use them to change a baby’s diaper.
TIP: Use a disinfectant wipe to scrub down the surface of your tray table. It’s a simple fix that should do the trick, but you still shouldn’t eat directly off your tray and should avoid as much contact as possible.
- Latches on overhead bins: USA Today reports the latches on overhead bins get a lot of handling, but almost no cleaning. Passengers repeatedly open and close multiple bins, looking for a place to stash their bag or coat. That makes them a petri dish for bacteria, viruses, and other microbes.
TIP: Place everything into a carry-on bag with germ-inhibiting properties or and slide under the seat in front of you. Or wipe your regular bag with disinfecting wipes before handling. This will help reduce your exposure to germs and may cut your chances of catching a cold.
- Touchscreen Entertainment System: You can select from hundreds of movies, games and music options. But this entertainment comes with a price. Nearly everyone who sat in your seat before you touched that screen and who knows where their hands had been before that.
TIP: Bring your own entertainment —a book, a laptop or smartphone. If you still want to watch a movie on the screen, be sure to avoid touching your face after using the screen and use lots of hand sanitizer.
HOTELS. When you stay in a hotel room, you’re in a room where hundreds and perhaps thousands of people have stayed. Surfaces, fixtures and remotes at hotels are constantly being touched by numerous people from guests to staff. It’s important to take precautions.
The germiest spots?
- Bathroom counter and faucet: “The bathroom counter and faucets can sometimes be cleaned with the same cloth used to clean the toilet, thereby transferring germs from fecal matter onto the counter and faucets,” explains Dr. Stagg MD, naturopathic physician. “This can lead to gastrointestinal infections. There may also be GI and respiratory viruses lingering on surfaces.”
TIP: Wipe down your faucets and counter with a sanitizing wipe before using and before placing your personal items on the surface.
- Remote control: “E. coli can be a problem on TV remotes from hotel guests not washing their hands after going to the bathroom,” says Dr. Stagg. The TV remote is rarely cleaned. Studies conducted by microbiologists found that remote controls have some of the highest levels of bacterial contamination in hotel rooms.
TIP: Cover the remote with a thin plastic bag to turn the TV on/off and change channels. The ice bucket plastic liner, a Ziploc bag or the complimentary hotel shower cap are all good options.
- Desks: In hotel rooms, Dr. Stagg says you can commonly find respiratory viruses lingering on desks that can remain for up to four days.
TIP: Clean the desk area with a sanitizing wipe before setting down your bag, laptop and business documents. Keep personal items protected in bag that provides full germ-protection.
- Hotel Light Switches: The first thing people touch after entering their room (after being on germy planes and trains) is the light switch. So, it makes sense that they’re teeming with a lot of germs. A study by the University of Houston found that the main light switch was the dirtiest surface in a hotel room and often contained high levels of fecal bacteria. Another research team found heavy bacterial contamination on the bedside lamp switch in many hotel rooms.
TIP: Use a disinfecting wipe to flip or turn on the light switch and wipe it down. If you have to touch it, wash your hands immediately afterward.
- Always carry disinfecting wipes when traveling and use on all surfaces before touching or placing your personal items on counters or surfaces in hotels.
- Apply hand sanitizer to clean your hands and wash your hands frequently.
- Keep your personal and business items protected. Use ThePureBag, Backpack, Bennett Bag Carry All, CrossBody, ZipPocket and Cinch Bags to that inhibit germs.
ThePureBag products’ healthcare-grade fabric protects the bag surfaces by inhibiting bacteria, fungus, mold, mildew and other germs. You can place these bags on any surface – on the subway, in a plane or in a hotel to mitigate tracking germs into your office, car or home.
Backpack + Bennett Bag:
spacious & durable to protect devices, water bottles, sunglasses and numerous other items.
XB CrossBody + ZipPocket:
convenient & easy access for items like wallet, smartphone + keys.
Pure Cinch Bag:
keep your shoes and laundry clean and odor-free in this washable plastic bag replacement.