As avid travelers, my husband and I have frequented virtually every state across the U.S., inhabited hundreds of hotel rooms and flown on most major airlines. We’ve seen the downright dirty — including a massive fly floating in a girl’s cocktail as she unwittingly sipped away, giving dirty martinis a whole new meaning. Gargantuan flies aside, we’ve picked up our share of bugs, and what we’ve learned is that being proactive is key.
If you’re itching to hit the open roads or fly the friendly skies this spring, you’re not alone. Leisure travel in the U.S. is increasing each year and, according to the U.S. Travel Association, Americans embarked on 1.8 billion personal trips in 2016. Of course, as our travel increases, so do our chances of getting sick. With a nasty flu season peak trailing shortly behind us, the CDC estimates that the flu has resulted in between 9.2 and 35.6 million illnesses in the U.S. since 2010.
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What’s a vacay voyager to do? Sit back, relax and enjoy these cost-effective solutions to assure your next getaway is spent sunning on the lido deck, not sick in an infirmary.
Wash Your Hands, Skip the Sanitizer
The majority of cold and flu viruses are spread via direct contact, but antibacterial overuse isn’t necessarily the answer. Did you know there are many dangerous chemicals found in traditional hand sanitizers?
Opt instead for good old-fashioned, frequent hand washing using hot water, plain soap and a bit of elbow grease. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ruled that regular soap and water prove just as effective as antibacterial soaps, and without the harmful side effects, such as bacterial resistance, from harsh ingredients like synthetic triclosan and triclocarban.
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Disinfect Surfaces Naturally
Germs thrive on porous and nonporous surfaces, so wiping down keyboards, doorknobs and remote controls — whether you’re bunking in an Airbnb or the Beverly Wilshire — is essential. Don’t forget your phone. Turns out, you’re more likely to expose yourself to staph infection by using your cellphone than you are by sitting on a toilet seat in a public restroom, according to an ABC News report. You can also catch the flu and other viruses from your cellphone as they can live a few days on nonporous surfaces.
Wipe those dirty surfaces with botanicals, not chemicals. Look for natural hand-sanitizing wipes and sprays like the CleanWell brand, which is EPA registered, FDA compliant and made with a patented anti-microbial technology from thyme oil. CleanWell products are alcohol-, triclosan- and cruelty-free, biodegradable, nontoxic and safe for kids.
Circulate With Compression Socks
As airplane legroom decreases, your risk for blood clots increases. By squeezing the leg tissues and walls of the veins on your feet, compression socks help blood in the veins return to the heart, aiding in overall health. Comrad compression socks help to circulate the fluid from your lymphatic system and there’s no need to cause a stinky scene at security; they’re naturally odorless via their moisture wicking and anti-microbial fabric of silver ions.
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Cover Your Seat, Tray and Armrests
While trash might be out of sight upon boarding, germs on airplane tray tables, seats and armrests are lurking. On average, over 8 million people fly every day, but, according to a USA Today report, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) doesn’t regulate or inspect airplane cleaning. Many airplanes only get a deep cleaning once every 30 days or every 100 flying-hour intervals. This allows germs and bacteria such as MRSA and E. coli to thrive on surfaces you touch, up to a week in fact, according to a study by Auburn University in Alabama. The highest levels of bacteria were found on tray tables, seatbelts and armrests. And, let’s not even discuss the loo.
Before you grab the barf bag, find serenity with Seat Sitters, reusable seat covers for your airplane seat, armrest and tray table. Seat Sitters are affordable, recyclable and perfect for long flights or during cold and flu season. They’re also great for those with peanut and other food allergies as they come with an allergy mask and tray table wipes.
Brush Your Way to Health
We all know a clean mouth equals better health, so don’t sacrifice oral hygiene on your next vacay. Check out Doctor Plotka’s Travel Toothbrush for foldable, convenient storage. With more than 20 billion bacteria in your mouth, this toothbrush, embedded with silver technology, can eliminate bacterial buildup for up to six hours after brushing. Your mouth, your health and your neighbor in seat 10B will thank you.
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Hang Your Bag
Getting hung up at the airport is annoying. Hanging up your purse or bag is essential. A study from the U.K. found the average handbag had more bacteria than a toilet flush. A great solution is the Loo Hook. Small and portable, the Loo Hook can hold up to 50 pounds.
Staying healthy while traveling shouldn’t break the bank. Remember, stay hydrated, (try not to) remain seated for the duration of the flight and keep germs at bay with these tips.
Click to read more about health-conscious tips from this author.