One Tip to Stay Healthy While Traveling: Wash Your Hands

wash hands

You may have heard all of the horror stories of germs lurking about aboard airplanes and inside the lavatory — as well as in hotel rooms, airports, rental cars and just about everywhere else when traveling…

Wash Your Hands

…but it may comfort you to know that one tip is all you need to stay healthy while traveling — assuming you do not have special requirements — and that is something which seemingly few people actually do with care: properly wash your hands.

Fortunately, the sanitary habits of other people — if they even practice sanitary habits — have much less of a chance to affect you or matter to you if you take the proper precautions, which can be rather simple to follow and can easily develop into a habit. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention outlines the recommendations for properly washing your hands — and when to do so:

When should you wash your hands?

  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before eating food
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After using the toilet
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
  • After touching garbage

What is the proper way to wash your hands?

  • Wet your hands with clean running water — warm or cold, although I prefer warm to hot — and apply soap.
  • Rub your hands together to make a lather and scrub them well; be sure to scrub the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  • Continue rubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  • Rinse your hands well under running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry.

What if Soap and Water are Unavailable?

If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer which contains at least 60 percent alcohol. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of germs on hands in some situations, but keep in mind that sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs.

Also, it is probably not a good idea to eat foods that you intend to eat with your hands without using an eating utensil — such as a fork — immediately after using a hand sanitizer, as there is a slight risk of ingesting the ethyl alcohol from the hand sanitizer. This precaution especially applies to young children, according to this article by Sanjay Gupta, who is the chief medical correspondent at CNN.


You may want to consider washing your hands before passing through an airport security checkpoint — but ensure that you thoroughly rinse off the soap you used, as there is a slight possibility that the glycerine found in soap and hand lotion could set off the scanner device.

Washing your hands is the single most effective way to remain healthy while traveling all year long.

Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

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