Millions of people will hit the roads, rails and sky this holiday season, and tagging along with them will be hordes of germs ready to spread to the traveling masses.
Despite being surrounded by bacteria and viruses in stores, airports and other public places, there are a few simple ways to minimize the risk of catching a disease, such as the cold and the flu, which could zap the happy out of the holidays.
"You don't want to be a hermit, and you want to enjoy the holidays, but try to use some common sense principles to avoid getting sick," said Dr. Lisa Bernstein, associate professor of medicine at Emory University School of Medicine.
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In an effort to help spread healthy holiday cheer, Bernstein and other doctors share the following tips for fending off germs while traveling:
It's the No. 1 rule that experts repeat over and over (and over) again: Wash hands.
"You're constantly touching surfaces that people have sneezed and coughed on, and then because you're in a crowded airport or on a plane you may get hot or sweaty, you wipe your eyes, nose or mouth and can spread germs," said Dr. Michael Perskin, assistant professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center.
Soap and water aren't always available, so alcohol-based hand sanitizers are essential travel items.
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"Liberal and frequent use of alcohol hand rubs is very important," said Dr. Laurence Gardner, professor of medicine and executive dean for clinical affairs at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. "If I were really concerned about acquiring a cold or a respiratory infection, I would apply that to my hands every 30 minutes or when I used the bathroom or touched any other surface."
"Wash kids' hands often as well, and encourage them to use a tissue and sneeze or cough into their elbow," said Bernstein.
Of course handwashing doesn't only apply to sitting on airplanes. With a much greater volume of people and germs in stores and other places, disinfecting hands, shopping carts, seats is extremely important.