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Airport Security Plastic Trays Harbor Highest Levels of Viruses, Study Finds

If you’re traveling and doing the best you can to avoid contracting a respiratory virus in an airport, you may want to avoid touching that tray you put your shoes and other belongings in at the security checkpoint. And, after you do go through security, be sure to wash your hands. A study looking at different airport terminal surfaces found the trays were even more contaminated with respiratory viruses than the toilets — in fact, no respiratory viruses at all were found on toilet surfaces, University of Nottingham reported. Rhinovirus and influenza A were the most common viruses found in the study.

Pathogens on planes are probably some of the worst unseen dangers you may face when you fly, as evidenced by recent news of an entire planeload of passengers being quarantined at John F. Kennedy airport, a result of numerous passengers becoming sick on the flight. While the cause of that illness is still under investigation, it’s probably not any comfort to know that one possible place the contagion could have come from was the security check line. But it should be comforting to learn that there are things you can do to prevent getting ill on a flight.

Of course, you can choose to wear a surgical mask while flying, which can help prevent you from breathing in airborne viruses. But the most common way for you to be infected with disease no matter where you are is actually by touching a contaminated surface, then transferring the germs you pick up to your eyes, nose or mouth. To that end making a conscious effort not to touch your face with your hands is a good move.

Beyond that, making sure to wash your hands thoroughly and frequently is one of the most important things you can do to avoid getting sick. When you wash, use warm, running water and soap. Work up a good lather all the way to your wrists for at least 15 to 20 seconds. Rinse thoroughly under running water.

Remember, too, that proper hand hygiene also involves proper drying. Ideally, dry your hands with a sterile paper towel and avoid air dryers, which can spread bacteria and virus-laden particles through the air. Also, always try not to rely on alcohol-based products to clean your hands, as they may increase the likelihood of carrying potential pathogens on your hands by eliminating naturally-occurring protective species.

Finally, your best bet for avoiding any illness is to build up your immune system with nourishing, whole foods. Avoid, and preferably eliminate, processed foods and sugars from your diet, and try to get good, quality sleep on a regular basis.

Also, if you’re flying, once you’re on the plane try adjusting your overhead vent so you have the air current directed away from your face, which might help knock away infectious organisms from your personal space.