Most Germ Ridden Place in the Airport

by Dr. Alan Kadish NMD

Don’t forget to pack the hand sanitizer as your about to find out where the worst germ area of the traveling experience is located, and it’s not where you think.

Quick quiz: Where do you and every traveler handle an item, possibly more than once, every time you fly ? 

As most of us feel abused by the TSA experience we now have another insult. In this case it’s passing around more viruses and bacteria potentially causing us additional illnesses to confront. Thanks you again airport “security”. The journal, BMC Infectious Diseases  did a study sampling the air and surfaces in 2016 at the Helsinki-Vantaa airport, which is the main airport in Finland on multiple occasions.

And the 2016 winner….. the trays used to put your personal items through the metal detectors.

Think about how we use these items. Were pushed to make the process fast and still have to be certain that we have emptied our pockets, place our well handled cell phone and other electronics inside and then recollect them and well you get the idea. Loads of handling multiple times and then back into our pockets…..and how many other travelers have done the same thing ?  And guess what…..plastic security trays are non-porous and virus survival is known to be prolonged. And if you check there are no prescribed cleaning methods on the FAA rule book for these items.


Every notice how you may find yourself suffering a respiratory tract infection after a flight ? Consider that your at risk from direct exposures from your fellow passengers. Remember the coughing gal or the child on the floor wiping their nose on the chair arm or the “cleaning” of your food table in the lobby with a dirty rag ?  Avoiding these individuals and the surfaces they come in contact with is completely impossible.

Hang in there….. there are steps to limit your exposures.

The exposure starts once you enter this airport, as 25% of the air tested positive for the adenovirus.  During the boarding, traveling, or even after arrival at the new airport destination you’re exposed to surfaces and other travelers who harbor lots of both bacteria and viruses.

The most common virus found was the rhinovirus. This pathogen was found on 40% of  the checked surfaces. You and I are familiar with this critter as it’s the cause of the common cold.

Influenza A virus has been reported on numerous surfaces and can survive for 24–48 h on non-porous and up to 8–12 h on porous surfaces, so unless there is a really aggressive cleaning schedule, there is no lack of viruses and bacteria on many surfaces.

Which brings us to the previous years winner of most contaminated surface, the food tray. Did you know that there is no actual requirement to clean the food trays ? Check out this infogram from the folks at Travel Math .  The higher the number the more contamination.

 airline germs flying

Let’s start with what to do to protect oneself.

Action Steps for safe flying:

       Don’t leave home with out some hand sanitizer either a spray or better yet wipes or both.

At the airport:

       Touch the least amount of items and surfaces as possible and apply hand sanitizer as often as necessary. Consider hand rails,                 elevator buttons, your credit cards and receipts.

       Use the hands free options when entering and exiting a restroom.

       Clean the surfaces of your computer, mouse, cell phone, pens and pencils and other commonly handled items as often as                         necessary. You can wrap your electronics in disposable plastic bags as you travel as one option. 

       Try to avoid touching your face. Yes we all touch our face multiple times per  hour however, it’s important to try to minimize this         action.

On the airplane:

        Wipe down the armrests and minimize your contact with other surfaces.

        Don’t handle the magazines or other airline items.

        If you brought food don’t use the food tray unless you clean it first.

        Your fellow passenger is coughing and sneezing , ask to be moved.

When our arrive at your destination:

         Take off your traveling cloths  and place them in a plastic bag to be washed, don’t use them until they are washed. 

         Take a shower and clean your hair

         Remove the airline tags and discard in the trash followed immediately by washing your hands: The tags contain high levels of               BPA’s, an endocrine disruptor

More great options: See our earlier post, Safe Flying….. Really

The following two tabs change content below.

Alan Kadish

Dr. Kadish is an unusual physician often referred to as a “doctor detective”. His expertise is the evaluation and treatment of complex disorders, typically after other physicians and clinics have been stumped, is renowned. He provides care for all family members and has additional training in autistic spectrum disorders (ASD) and chronic complex diseases (focused on autoimmune and neurological conditions). If your wanting or needing some answers for your health issues call us at the Center of Health, 541.773.3191 .