Rest Easy, Germaphobes: Here’s How to Avoid Germs and Enjoy a Holiday

Female tourist pointing

Female tourist pointing

by Selena Hernandez,

If thoughts like, “All the world’s your oyster—until that seafood buffet has you clinging to the germy hotel toilet for dear life” have ever crossed your mind, you may be a germaphobe. We get it. Take heart: You can still enjoy your holiday without being paralyzed by nightmares of disease. Take these precautions to avoid the most commonly reported travel germ risks:

Be Prepared

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a comprehensive database of destinations and their current public health concerns. Check the “For Travelers” menu, where you can choose your destination and then click all the conditions that apply to you. Click “Go” and you will get a list of precautions for that location and any vaccines you will want before you fly. Note that many vaccines only reach full efficacy a few weeks later, so plan accordingly. Just keep washing your hands and don’t let anyone pick on you for carrying hand sanitizer.

Food and Drink Risks

The Annals of Internal Medicine reports that food- and beverage-borne gastrointestinal illnesses are the number one travel-related health problem. Avoid uncooked, unpasteurized and cold foods whenever possible. Stick with freshly cooked hot foods, fruits and veggies that can be peeled and bottled beverages. Avoid ice, buffets, uncooked seafood and street vendors. Your tummy will thank you later, but pack some anti-diarrheal pills—just in case.

Hot Tubs, Swimming Pools, Beaches

Salt and chlorine are great germ killers, but they don’t catch everything. Medical Informatics Insider found that 95 percent of hot tubs contain bacteria from feces, and WebMD recently noted that nearly 1.5 million people get sick annually from playing in beach water. Still longing to jump in? Before you dip, ask how well the resort pool or hot tub is maintained. If you’re visiting an outdoor hot tub, do they frequently change the hot tub spa filters and keep up on chemical testing and maintenance?

Also, follow the CDC’s advice on taking a safe swim: Keep water out of your eyes, nose and mouth. Take hot, soapy showers before and after, and if you have any open cuts, sores or illnesses (or just can’t stand the idea of what may be in the water), go sightseeing instead.

Bed Bugs and Other Biters

Bed bugs are one of creepiest travel nuisances out there. Frommers has a good article on how to pack and where to stow your luggage to prevent bed bugs from ruining your vacation. If you are going somewhere buzzing with disease-carrying mosquitoes, choose lodgings with mosquito netting, or bring your own. Wear bug repellent and light-colored, long-sleeved shirts and pants. Columbia even has lines of insect repellent clothing.

So don’t sit at home freaking out about travel germs. Take these precautions and enjoy the journey without diarrhea, fevers, rashes or bites!

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