Let’s be honest, flying around the world in large enclosed tubes with wings was always going to carry with it the risk of being confined in a high-speed, germ-carrying vessel.
But unless you had an immune deficiency of some sort or you sit next to patient zero, there is no reason to really fear much from the germs around us when we travel.
That being said, there are certain areas in airports and on aeroplanes that do, generally, have a higher proportion of germs to others. From the unexpected to the seemingly obvious, this is a list of the top germ-carrying locations you need to be aware of while in transit. Reading through this list can thus be seen as a way to help you to prepare yourself for your next air travel experience.
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So get your disinfectant wet-wipes and hand sanitizer ready, these are the grimiest, germiest spots you’re likely to encounter when flying:
The tray table:
According to the results of a microbiological study commissioned by Travel Math, the tray table on the back of seats tested the highest for presence of bacteria with 2 155 colony-forming units per square inch. Now that you know, it is best to adjust your in-flight eating habits accordingly.
The tray table could be a springboard for bacteria seeking an easy way to get into your mouth and cause all kinds of havoc. So it’s probably best to ensure that there is limited to no direct contact between your food and the tray table.
Travel Math said this might have something do with airline staff having little turnaround time between flights to actually give seats a proper scrub down and sanitising. Washrooms, on the other hand, are cleaned frequently. So yeah, the place where you eat is dirtier than the lavatory - let that sink in.
Overhead air vents and seatbelt buckles
This should be quite obvious, you literally have to touch your seatbelt buckle at least twice every time you fly and so does everyone else so it makes sense that this would be one of the germiest places on a plane. The overhead air vents are also excellent distributors of airborne germs.
With frequent and consistent usage and a cleaning regimen that may not be too regular, these areas are havens for bacteria. With 285 and 230 colony-forming units per square inch identified by Travel Math for the overhead air vents and seatbelt buckles respectively, make sure to use some sanitiser after the seatbelt sign goes on.
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Lavatory flush buttons
This shouldn’t come as a surprise really. Travel Math identified the presence of 265 colony-forming units per square inch. Though frequently cleaned, and likely cleaner than the tray table that doesn’t receive as regular attention, the locks to the lavatory stall and flush button come into contact with hands that have been who knows where. Also, the plumes of aerosolised loo water that comes about as a result of flushing goes all over the place, leaving behind an assortment of germs that you might come in contact with.
Water fountain buttons:
Travel Math came to the conclusion that water fountain buttons are the most germ-infested spots in airports beating out even the bathroom stall locks. The team at Travel Math found 1240 colony-forming units per square inch of bacteria on the water fountain buttons. That should be enough to get you to consider buying bottled water instead.
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