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How to Vanquish Germs When You Travel

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Do you get sick when you travel? I do. Almost every single time. I'd come to think of it as just an unhappy consequence of traveling, but after my husband, Randy, had to have a double lung transplant (a very unexpected journey) two years ago I looked at it differently. Viruses and infections are extremely hazardous to Randy, so every precaution has to be taken. We must vanquish germs, especially when we travel!

Randy is on anti-rejection medications for the rest of his life. These medications lower his immune system and make him very susceptible to any illness floating around. Once he gets sick, it is a tough fight to get well. I have become a fiend for disinfecting everything in our path...if I get sick, Randy could get sick. It is so very easy to be exposed to illness. Flu, colds, and respiratory illnesses are conveyed because a cough, blowing your nose, or a sneeze transmits millions of virus droplets into the space around you. These can be inhaled by others, or land on surfaces that people commonly touch. When you put a crowd into a space, the transmission becomes exponential.

Here is how I vanquish germs when traveling (and in daily life):
  1. I wear a mask that blocks viruses when I am on planes, trains, buses and subways. Viruses abound. You absolutely know that someone near to you is sick, and often you can hear sneezing and coughing, which puts me into a state of complete vigilance. Our culture is not careful enough about spreading germs, I mean, many people don't even wash their hands! When traveling in Asia it is common to see people wearing masks, and they wear them not to keep from getting ill, but when they feel they may be getting sick, or have a common cold. It is common courtesy in those nations not to spread your own germs to others. I wish all cultures would pick up this habit, we would all be healthier!
  2. As for travel, wear that mask early, and remember that the germ festival starts at the ticket counter. How often do you think they disinfect the screens or counters? Not often enough, if at all. Security lines are danger zones. Do you see anyone cleaning the plastic bins they give you? No. You may see the security guards wearing gloves, but passengers don't. If you don't want to wear gloves you need to carry antibacterial wipes and clean your hands after handling or touching anything. If you had to take off your shoes, clean your feet or socks.
  3. Whether it is a train station or airplane lounge, it is germ ridden. The arms of the chairs have had thousands of people walking by, sneezing, coughing, and not washing their hands. Clean it with antibacterial wipes before you sit down. When you board, be sure to clean your seat's arms, the tray table, the emergency card that people have handled for years without being cleaned, the air vents and the seat belts.
  4. Renting a car? Getting in a taxi? Wipe it down. I guarantee it has not been disinfected. And at the gas pump, everything you touch has been touched by thousands of people! Wipe the pump, the touch screen, the buttons, and when you are done, wipe your hands!
  5. Dining out? Do you think that the damp cloth they use to wipe the table does anything other than spread the germs around? Back to the antibacterial wipes. Wipe down the table, the chairs, the utensils, condiment bottles, and most important of all, the salt and pepper shakers.
Keep antibacterial wipes or gel in your purse or backpack. Use them in the bathrooms, hotels, lobbies, etc. Make sure they are good quality and destroy a high percentage of germs!

Am I paranoid? A little, yes. Do I look like an OCD crazy person? Maybe. I have a big incentive to try and mitigate the allergens and germs in my environment because of Randy. However, I have found that if I do these things, I am ill less often. Shouldn't we all think about those around us? Someone nearby may be a transplant patient or someone who is immunosuppressed. If you are sick, wear a mask to protect others, it is the least we all can do!