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Protect Yourself from the Most Gross Spots in Planes and Hotels

March 13, 2019

It’s no secret that travel can be a dirty, unclean and unhealthy experience. The reality is that we do our best to not think about what’s in that recycled air on planes. But the only way to really protect yourself from the teeming germ environment on flights and in hotels is to know where they lurk the most—so strap in, buckle up (but not before you clean it) and get ready to be grossed out. (Don’t worry, we’ve got this covered.)

Let’s start with flights. The handy site Travelmath sent a microbiologist on 4 flights to report back which surfaces had the most colony-forming units (CFUs) of bacteria. You know the bathrooms are gross (265 CFUs per square inch on the flush button), but guess what’s even worse: The overhead air vent (285 CFUs). The seatbelt buckle is a germ party, too, with 230 CFUs—and it’s not like you can avoid touching that.

None of these statistics come even close to the worst offender: The tray table, which comes in with a whopping 2,155 CFUs. Yeah. That place where you put your food, your laptop and maybe even your baby just to mention a few. You get the point and we’re horrified, too.

Now that you’re all germed up from your flight, let’s check into a hotel. Travelmath sent a team to 9 hotels to gather samples. What they found: If your laptop wasn’t icky enough after sitting on the tray table, go ahead and put it on the desk, where there’s nearly 615,000 CFUs of bacteria. Maybe you want to watch TV instead of working? Not so fast — you’ll find more than 1,211,600 CFUs on the remote. And we hope you haven’t been putting your toothbrush on the bathroom counter — it has more than 1,288,000 CFUs.

Before you vow to never leave home again, it’s time for the good news. There are some simple, all-natural ways to protect yourself from the onslaught of germs and be less paranoid about your confined space when you are traveling:

1. Wipe away germs

We never travel without a travel pack of disinfectant wipes that can kill viruses, bacteria, and seriously reduce allergens. Regular Lysol wipes are clinically proven to kill 99.9% of illness-causing bacteria found on surfaces in planes, and getting wipes through security is easier than traveling with a spray bottle. Yes, the cleaning crew is supposed to take care of your seat before you get into it, but it’s worth not taking any chances.

2. Stay hydrated

Low humidity on flights, high altitude, recycled air that circulates germs everywhere, jet lag and lack of sleep can leave you feeling less than well, so make sure you sip lots of water. Avoiding alcohol helps but snacking on hydrating foods, like vegetables and fruit is a healthy choice

3. Wash your hands

You always do this after using the restroom, of course — but it can’t hurt to do it a few times during a flight as you touch different surfaces. And after you arrive at your destination, remember that escalators, ATMs, public transit handles all can be covered with germs, so wash up often.

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