Hand hygiene: travelling

Posted on 27 May 2016

When you’re travelling – especially by plane – your chances of catching a bug are quite high. (Think about it: you’re stuck in a smallish space with hundreds of other people.) Keeping your hands clean will radically reduce your risk. Here are five tips to keep you healthy.

That’s a nice way of saying, ‘Use the bathroom at home, rather than at the airport… or on the aeroplane!’ A microbiological study by the University of Arizona found that the toilets on board a plane are ‘among the germiest that you will encounter almost anywhere’. When you’re sharing one cubicle with more than 50 fellow passengers, that makes a lot of sense. If you need to use the loo, use a paper towel to close the toilet lid before flushing and then wash your hands thoroughly.

Staying on the aeroplane, seat pockets (where airsick bags and in-flight magazines are stashed) are known to contain all sorts of unpleasant surprises – including used tissues. Rather bring your own small, easily accessible carry-on bag, so that you can avoid storing your book/tablet/whatever in the seat pocket.

Parents of small children swear by them; the rest of the grown-up world doesn’t know what it’s missing. Wet wipes, moist towelettes… call them what you like, they’ll help keep your hands – and other surfaces – relatively clean and germ-free. If you’re flying, wipe down your tray table before and after use. If you’re driving, wipe your hands every couple of hours.


For a more thorough clean, use an alcohol-based hand cleanser. ‘Sufficient hand rub should be used (generally 3 to 5ml) to allow for your hands to be moist enough to allow for rubbing to occur for 20 to 30 seconds before your hands are dry,’ says nursing professional Christine Smedley, infection prevention and control coordinator at Mediclinic Southern Africa. ‘It’s important that all surfaces and areas of the hands are moistened and rubbed to be effective. Alcohol-based hand rubs are very effective when used correctly on hands which are not soiled, and they have the added advantage of being easy to transport where hand washing facilities may not be available.’

Finally, remember that everything you touch has been touched by someone else… and you never know when last that ‘someone else’ washed their hands, or what bugs and germs they might be carrying. Reduce your risk of germ transfer by handling your own belongings, and wash your hands often – with soap and water – when you’re at high-transit areas like airports and hotels.

Published in Healthy Life

In the interest of our patients, in accordance with SA law and our commitment to expertise, Mediclinic cannot subscribe to the practice of online diagnosis. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical advice. If you have any major concerns, please see your doctor for an assessment. If you have any cause for concern, your GP will be able to direct you to the appropriate specialists.

Post a comment

Leave a reply