Do you often get flu, or feel tired and sick after a flight? Most people think that the stress of travel affects their immune systems, but it could be something else!

Germs thrive in the airport environment where thousands of people pass through every day.

Researchers tested various surfaces in the Helsinki-Vantaa airport in Finland, and identified some of the most germ-filled spaces.

“Our main findings identify that respiratory virus contamination of frequently touched surfaces is not uncommon at airports; and that plastic security screening trays appear commonly contaminated,” the researchers wrote in their study, which was published in the journal BMC Infection Diseases.

(Watch the video above for more detail on the filthiest places in an airport)

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Yes, according to the researchers, the most contaminated item in the airport is actually the screen of the self-check-in machine! The average screen was found to contain over 250 000 CFU/sq inch. That’s 1 500 times MORE than on your home toilet seat!

CFU /sq inch describes the number of colony forming units (CFU) of bacteria per square inch. The researchers found that the armrests on the waiting benches near the boarding gates have over 22 000 CFU/sq inch, and water fountain buttons are covered in about 19 000 CFU/sq inch.

50 percent of the trays that carry your items through the X-ray machine contain rhinovirus and coronavirus. Rhinovirus is the predominant cause of the common cold, while coronavirus causes an infection in your nose, sinuses, or upper throat.

And don’t think you’re safe when you get on the plane

  • Washroom buttons on the planes are coated with 95 000 CFU/sq inch
  • Table trays can hold up to 11 000 CFU/sq inch

So how do you protect yourself when travelling through airports and on airplanes? Carry a package of anti-bacterial wipes with you, and be fastidious about wiping down any public surface that you touch. Also use an anti-bacterial hand sanitiser for your hands.

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While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.