Travelling is more accessible than ever. Cheaper air travel allows us to go further for less, exploring countries and communities we never imagined we could visit. While this is great news, travelling can disturb the delicate balance of your immune system.
To help, here are five essential hygiene habits to help you stay healthy and clean during your next trip.
1. Disinfect, Disinfect, Disinfect!
Travelling puts you in busy environments with many factors outside your control. Situations such as buying tickets, or sharing dinner in a mess tent provide ample opportunity for germs to spread.
Fortunately, a bottle of antibacterial gel or wipes can save the day, and your trip.
No matter your method of travel, use liberally from the moment your trip begins. TravelMatch research in 2015 that tested sample from various hard surfaces in aeroplanes discovered that tray tables had over eight times the number of bacteria per square inch than the toilet flush buttons. A quick wipe down by crew in between flights may leave these surfaces superficially clean, but only a thorough clean with a disinfectant product will kill nasties such as the norovirus.
A bottle of antibacterial gel in your bag could prevent a night holed up in your hotel bathroom, or from being wiped out by a stubborn cold. It’s also perfect for on-the-go, whether you’re enjoying a plate of Paella in Valencia or haggling at the Chatuchak market in Bangkok.
If you are susceptible to dry hands choose a hand gel infused with glycerin.
2. Don’t Become a Mosquito’s Next Meal
Discovering you’re on the receiving end of a hungry mosquito when on holiday – as I usually am – is uncomfortable and inconvenient, but it could also leave you with more than an itchy bite.
According to the World Health Organization, vector-borne diseases account for more than 17% of all infectious diseases yearly. Outside at dusk or dawn? Then, be sure to use a DEET-based repellent (not always good for your skin but very efficient) and stick to light-coloured clothes.
Beer drinkers might also want to skip their favourite pint. Research suggests that just one beer makes you more attractive to mosquitoes than a glass of water.
3. Keep a Barrier Between your Feet and the Floor
Outside the comfort of your home, don’t let your bare feet make contact with the ground. Keep a pair of socks on as you go through airport security. Local pools, spas, or your hotel shower are all prime, damp spaces with a higher chance of picking up athlete’s foot or a verruca. Pack a cheap pair of flipflops or shower shoes to protect yourself from an unwanted fungal infection.
4. Don’t Presume all Water is Drinkable
We take filling up a glass of cold water from a tap for granted; it is second nature. However, when travelling, it is important to be cautious of tap water. Water throughout the world has differing mineral contents. Our bodies are not accustomed to these differences and can leave our stomachs unsettled. More seriously though, local water at your destination may contain water-borne parasites that could leave you unwell.
Your accommodation or guide will be able to tell you if the water is safe or not. If in doubt, stick to bottled or boiled water to drink and brush your teeth with. If none of this is available, make sure you can treat water. Outside, avoid consuming salad, fruit without a peel and skip the ice in your gin and tonic.
5. Treat Public Bathrooms as the Bacteria Breeding Grounds They Are
Public bathrooms see a high volume of visitors every day, and not all are well maintained. Avoid touching surfaces with bare hands to prevent anything else leaving the bathroom than yourself. Keep your bags off the floor, otherwise clean down with antibacterial wipes. Putting the toilet lid down when flushing will help to avoid spray-back.
Warm air hand dryers are a more environmentally-friendly and efficient way to dry hands; they suck in bacteria spores from the user. However a study from the University of Connecticut this year found that dryers also distribute bacteria spores back onto clean-hands. So, if the previous person hasn’t washed their hands effectively, you could be putting yourself at risk each time you put your hands under the dryer. For now, the most hygienic way to dry your hands is a paper towel.