If You’re Sick, Read This Before You Travel Anywhere

PHOTO: Shutterstock/Matej Kastelic

Maybe wash your hands more often?

Should the sniffles keep you away from your next holiday? Sure, you’re feeling gross, but Starbucks has hot tea and Hudson News has Tylenol Cold PM which means you’re sure to fall asleep on the flight, even in economy. And you’ll wake with the satisfaction that you didn’t let a cold ruin your vacation. Good for you, right? Wrong. Evidence from a new study suggests that whenever one of us decides to travel while sick, we could potentially making hundreds more people feel under the weather.

The Data

If you do travel while sick, you should know that you’re not alone. A new study by Vital Vio, a company that makes antibacterial LED technology, found that roughly 40% of Americans over the age of 18 hit the road while they’re feeling unwell.

And the stats get worse. Roughly 60% of the people who do travel while sick say that they don’t use germicides or cleaning wipes or make any effort to wipe down surfaces that they’ve touched while they’re sojourning through airports, train stations, and other public spaces around the nation. And, given that 93 million Americans traveled abroad last year (and that’s not even counting domestic travel) that’s a lot of germs with a lot of reach.

The average person comes into contact with around 60,000 different types of bacteria each day. Most of them are harmless, but some of them are antibiotic-resistant and some are dangerous pathogens like Zika or even deadly viruses. In 2019, the World Health Organization expects 700,000 people to globally die from illnesses like those. By 2050, as the world becomes more global, that number could grow to 10 million.

But Don’t Freak out Just Yet

Yes, the world is a very germy place and yes, you’re probably part of the problem. But if you’re not willing to fork over a lot of cash to reschedule a trip taken on a non-refundable ticket, or are unwilling to tell your mother you won’t be coming home for Christmas this year because your throat is scratchy, you do have plenty of options to keep yourself safe and to keep other travelers safe from you.

Bring hand sanitizer. Sanitize your hands before you touch the dozens of things you’ll encounter in the airport when you’re sick. If you’re feeling OK, sanitize your hands after you touch the dozens of things you’ll encounter because someone else was probably sick and you can’t be sure they read this article.

Wear a face mask. If you’re actively sneezy, pop one on and be the change you hope to see in the world. While face masks are more popular in places like China and Japan, America is starting to catch on to the trend of keeping their germs to themselves. And, to keep you from looking like patient zero (even though you might be) there are even super-chic designer versions.

If you don’t want to wear one through the terminal, wait until you’re in your seat. Your seatmate will be so grateful that you’re not sneezing on them that they won’t judge.