Advice for Seniors Traveling: Dealing with Health Concerns on Flights

Nov 16th, 2010 | By | Category: Senior Travel

Quick! Pick up that pretzel that just toppled out of the snack pack onto your airplane seat tray. As long as you pop it into your mouth within five seconds, it’s still safe to eat, according to commonly held belief.  Right? 

Not so, warned Dr. Paul Dawson, Food Science and Human Nutrition professor with Clemson University. Dawson’s team published a study three years ago in the Journal of Applied Microbiology that debunked the “five-second rule” — the idea that food dropped on the floor or other surfaces is safe to eat so long as it’s picked up within five seconds.
Dawson’s study found bacteria makes the leap from tabletops and floors to food well within that short time frame. provides some very good and helpful information and tips about health safety travel.  The good news is that other 2007 studies showed that an airplane seat tray isn’t as germy as many believe.  This stuff is a little scary.  I recall reading about hotel/motel beds and all the “stuff” that is under the sheets, on the mattress, and on the TV control.  Better wear a mask, carry the little bottle of alcohol spray for hands and don’t breathe!

Humidity is lower on board planes during flights, so the CDC recommends passengers stay hydrated to keep nasal passages moist and able to filter germs and to flush toxins. I have read or heard that humidity on an airplane is ZERO… ZERO.  All the more reason to keep up with the water but then again I have  read or heard that the water on airplanes is really bad too.  So I guess that we pay the $5 a can and drink beer or coffee, or juice or something else. 

One can not emphasize enough the importance of washing hands.  When I was in Guatemala on a Christian Medical and Dental Society Mission, one of the surgeons laughed at the way others were washing hands.  He said…”Remember that a finger has FOUR SIDES.”  I always remembered that and try to wash all four sides.  Kinda like when I was recruiting for a military academy where I taught and had a student in my class whose father was a dentist.  I visited the family.  Kirk’s father said…”You need to brush your teeth no later that twenty minutes after you eat or it is TOO LATE.”  I remembered that too and try to do just that.  How about you?

So now I will warn you of the dangers of visiting the lavatory in an airplane. For most global travelers, a pit stop in the airplane lavatory is inevitable. Unfortunately, the germs inside might be, too. “This makes sense, given the purpose of the lavatory and the fact that it is the most commonly visited area [of the airplane],” according to the summer 2004 study, “Molecular Survey of Aeroplane Bacterial Contamination,” by San Diego State University. The university team studied four airplanes. The research included wiping down the entire surface of toilet handles, sink handles and door knobs. According to the study, “The substantial diversity of human-associated bacterial species found on numerous lavatory surfaces on every flight tested, including a paper towel, suggests that lavatories represent the biggest potential hazard for passengers and crew.” 

Then again I read that in a local tavern (I will not state the State) there was a huge bowl of peanuts for the taking.  When a study was done on that bowl, there was evidence of over a dozen types of urine found in that bowl… so don’t eat peanuts!  I guess that I have scared you enuf’ for today and I bid you Bonne Route and Buen Viaje!   jeb

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