Don’t catch more than a flight at the airport… how to avoid bacteria and bugs while you wait to fly

With more than 100,000 passengers passing through airports such as Gatwick on a daily basis, there’s an increased risk of coming into contact with bacteria and bugs. Find out how to dodge them here.

Don't catch more than a plane at the airport

Don’t catch more than a plane at the airport

Taking a few simple precautions at the airport will help drastically cut the risk of contracting bugs.

Here we look at infection hotspots and how you can help to ensure a bacteria-free start to your journey.

Luggage trolley – is it carrying more than your bags?

The humble airport baggage trolley might seem inoffensive enough, but they’re unlikely to have been cleaned on a regular basis despite thousands of travellers depositing their bacterial unpleasantries on a daily basis.

How to clean up: Make sure you pack anti-bacterial wipes in your hand luggage to give your baggage trolley a good wipe down. Go for wipes with alcohol content of at least 40-60%. Plan ahead with our guide to baggage trolley costs at all major UK airports here.

Toilet terror – time to reach for the alcohol?

A recent survey found the catch on the inside of toilet cubicles to be one of the most germ-infested areas in an airport. With most of us expecting to spend up to three hours in the departure area, it’s likely that nature will call.

How to clean up: Make sure you give your hands a good wash with soap and water (drying with an air blower if possible) then finish off with a squirt of your hand sanitiser gel immediately after you leave the toilet area. Again, look for a product that comes with a high alcohol content. This will help combat the likes of cryptosporidium, norovirus and Clostridium difficile – the baddies behind sickness and diarrhoea. Take special care to ensure children are thorough when washing, too.

Beat the queues and the bugs

The more time you spend with fellow travellers huffing, puffing, sneezing and getting up-close and personal will put you at greater risk of airborne bugs such as flu, colds and norovirus. What you need is a fast-track through the germs.

How to clean up: Bypassing this pinch-point by choosing your airport’s fast-track security option might not only speed up your progress to the departure lounge but also slash your exposure to bugs. Find a list of UK airports with fast-track security lanes here.

Additionally, it’ll cost extra, but booking a space in one of the many airport lounges will also ensure you enjoy more personal space in a relaxing environment – drastically reducing exposure to bugs. Find a list of lounges available at UK airports here.

Security rocks in socks


Save your bare feet for the beach: Image credit

Heading through security, many officers will ask passengers to remove shoes. Anyone not wearing socks will need to walk 20- or 30ft over an area of floor that’s been graced by thousands of sweaty feet since its last scrub-down. From verrucae to athletes’ foot and beyond, we’d advise you save barefoot antics for the beach – along with all that sanitising salt water!

How to clean up: Wearing socks is sure to prove a simple and cheap way to avoid costly and painful visits to the podiatrist later.

Restaurants – what’s on the menu… literally?

So, what’s good and not so good on the menu today? That grubby, sticky piece of well-handled card that you’re choosing your selection from could be hiding some seriously unsavoury bacteria that’s making its way onto your fingers. A study in the Journal of Medical Virology revealed that cold and flu viruses can survive on hard surfaces for up to 18 hours – making a laminated menu the perfect breeding ground for viral nasties not to be ingested.

How to clean up: Pick a restaurant with disposable paper menus, or make sure you wash your hands immediately after choosing your dish. You could also use our UK airport restaurant finder from where many of the menus can be viewed digitally.

Escalators – get a handle on those bugs

The signs tell travellers to use the handles when riding escalators. The resulting grubby grab-handles could provide an easy ride for bugs looking for a new host.

How to clean up: Avoiding the handles could leave you at risk of tripping, so instead opt for a good squeeze of your alcohol-based hand cleaning gel.

ATMs and other touchscreen – don’t pay the price

Let’s face it, fingers do all the dirty work for us humans, so getting touchy-feely with airport cashpoints and other touchscreen is not ideal. Jabbing your finger on the same small surface as many thousands of your fellow travellers is likely to deposit unwelcome bacteria and bugs as you make a withdrawal.

How to clean up: You guessed it – get busy with that alcohol-based hand cleaner. Make sure you work it to the end of your fingers and up past your wrists.

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