If you’ve been to the airport lately, you’ve seen firsthand the recent boost in. On Sunday, the Transportation Security Administration screened 2,097,433 people at airport security checkpoints, the beginning. Most experts agree that the risk of COVID exposure is relatively low on airplanes due to the air filtration systems, , and sanitation measures, and passengers tend to sit quietly while all are facing the same direction. However, many have cautioned spending time at the airport carries more risk.
“There is nothing worse than ending up sick on vacation,” said Lauren Bryan, an infection preventionist at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. “Airports are a mixing bowl of people from all over who have brought their germs along for the ride.” Although the pandemic has led to more frequent and intensive cleaning procedures in many airports, certain germs are seemingly unavoidable in that environment. But when it comes to the risk of infection, not all airport areas are created equal. With the help of experts, we broke down some of the germiest locations and surfaces at airports.
When you get to the airport, locating your departure gate is essential to understand where you need to become boarding time. But if you’re trying to reduce exposure to germs, it may not be the best idea to sit down and wait there for an extended period. “Sites in airports that are frequently touched but notinclude the armrests on chairs in the terminal waiting areas,” said Kelly Reynolds, a professor, and chair of the Community, Environment & Policy Department at the University of Arizona. “These can be hot spots for germ transmission.”
Indeed, a 2018 study from InsuranceQuotes.com found that the chair armrests at the gates were among the dirtiest spots in airports. The online insurance marketplace analyzed samples from six surfaces at three major U.S. airports and found that the armrests contained 21,630 colony-forming units ― viable bacteria and fungal cells ― per square inch. So consider wiping down the chair and armrest if you’d like to sit down ― or standing up and waiting nearby instead. “Don’t sit on floors,” cautioned Kadi Banjoko, an infection preventionist in the clinical epidemiology department at the University Wexner Medical Center. “They are dirty.”
“High-touch areas in airports that are infrequently cleaned include … the handrails along stairs and escalators and the moving walkways,” Bryan noted. But “that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t touch handrails, as falling down the stairs is not a good alternative!” She advised being mindful of what you touch at the airport and on the plane. Always wash your hands, or sanitize when you cannot access soap and water. “Carry hand sanitizer in a place it is easy to access without having to dig through your bag ― mine dangles from my purse strap,” Bryan said. “If I am going to be seated somewhere for a while, like on an airplane, I use disinfectant wipes on the armrests of the airplane seat, seat belt clasp, and tray table.”
“I think one of theis the self-check-in monitors,” Banjoko said. “I don’t know how often they are wiped down, but people should ensure they use hand sanitizers after touching those screens.” According to the InsuranceQuotes.com study, these self-serve kiosk screens contain an average of 253,857 CFU per square inch. (One screen recorded more than 1 million.) They . The numbers can vary based on the airport and the screen in question, and the in many places has included more frequent cleanings. But it still doesn’t hurt to wash those hands.