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Four Easy Ways to Fight Germs during Holiday Travels

Millions of Americans will travel to celebrate the holidays with family or enjoy an exotic vacation. Donna Duberg, assistant professor of biomedical laboratory science at Saint Louis University, suggests taking action to keep germs at bay so sickness doesn’t ruin an eagerly anticipated getaway.

“Hand sanitizer is my secret weapon. I use it every time I grab a drink or a cookie, sit down to rest and even before I go to the bathroom. You can even put it on a tissue and have a ready-made disinfectant wipe,” Duberg says. 

Germ expert Donna Duberg makes a home-made travel kit.

Donna Duberg, assistant professor of biomedical science, prepares surface wipes by squirting hand sanitizer on a tissue, as part of her germ-fighting travel kit. Photo by Ellen Hutti

Here are some other strategies Duberg uses to stay healthy when she is on the road:

When flying: Avoid the aisle seat on planes, where you will be exposed to more people, some coughing and sneezing as they share their germs. Wipe down seat trays and armrests on planes and trains with disinfectant wipes because cold and flu viruses can live up to 72 hours on plastic surfaces. Remember that the handle you push to flush the toilet is the germiest place on the plane, so wash your hands after pressing it.

When checking into a hotel: Give your hotel room the once over before you unpack. It should smell fresh and not look dirty – trash in waste baskets, dust on the window blinds and schmutz on carpets are clues that it can be extra germy. In particular, Duberg cleans the TV remote before she will touch it. She also sometimes brings her own pillow or a pillowcase because the average pillow has more than 350,000 potential live bacteria colonies.

Drink plenty of water: Among many benefits, proper hydration keeps your body cool, promotes cardiovascular health and keeps things flowing in your gastrointestinal track, which prevents constipation. If you feel thirsty, you’re not drinking enough.

Practice personal hygiene: Keep your hands away from your “T-zone” your eyes, nose and mouth where germs can easily enter the body. Sneeze or cough into the crook of your elbow. Get the crusties off your child’s nose. And don’t let the change in routine disrupt taking a daily shower, brushing your teeth and wearing clean clothes every day. Make sure you pack enough underwear or plan to take the time to do laundry.

“And, perhaps most important of all course, I wash my hands – it goes without saying after I go to the bathroom and after I cough, sneeze or blow my nose. I lather up with warm soapy water and rinse for about 20 seconds, which is about the amount of time it takes to remove germs and sing Happy Birthday twice. I’m a real zealot when it comes to hand hygiene,” Duberg said.