Germinating the Truth: A Cosmopolitan Traveler’s Perspective on the Antibacterial Craze – Travel World

Germs are hot. Lately, we’ve been hearing about them everywhere. But are germs really that dangerous? Or is the fear of them hype created by new product manufacturers aimed at turning our fears into cold hard cash? These are questions that were germinating in my own mind after hours of ceiling-staring during a recent bronchitis bout contracted after flying. I decided to search for some answers. Here’s what I found.

Germs, like society, have classes. And in the travel world, it seems the dangerous germs/bacteria come from one of three categories/places: 1) Air; 2) Surfaces 3) Food and water.

I researched and wrote a whole thing about these germs, full of impressive scientific words like norovirus and fomites and I found facts about air filtration percentages and viral outbreaks. Then I realized that stuff is boring. Point is, germs aren’t going anywhere, so what are we to do about them when traveling?

I could recommend you stop breathing, eating, and/or touching things, but you probably wouldn’t listen, so what else is doable?

Germ-warfare suggestions abound on the internet: wear a surgical mask; coat the inside of your nostrils with oil (viruses thrive in dry nostrils, apparently); switch seats if stuck by a sick person.

I don’t know about you, but I feel embarrassed enough wearing an inflatable neck-pillow, let alone wearing a surgical mask and sticking my finger up my nose when flying.

Cute guy next to me: “Uh, do you need a Kleenex?”

Me: “No, just putting a little jojoba on my mucous membranes. Prevents cracking. Here, want some?”

Cute guy: “Uh, stewardess, may I please switch seats?”

Not exactly the best way to make a love connection – or any connection. Switching seats mid-flight? Have you seen how packed flights are these days? Forget it!

The best way to fight germs, I think, is age-old common sense, not gadgetry. Use toilet seat covers. Wash your hands often. In underdeveloped countries, avoid ice, unpeelable fruit and veggies – only use bottled water, even for teeth-brushing. Don’t eat from street vendors. Avoid meat in countries with meat-borne diseases (Mad Cow/beef, Bird Flu/chicken).

Use Airborne to protect yourself from airborne germs and Purell for surface ones. When flying, don’t use the tray table (it’s the dirtiest part of the plane), or drink the sink water (even coffee) – it’s not purified.

Forget the UV Light, the portable air purifier, your own blanket. These only take up luggage space, and, frankly, we’ve survived decades of traveling without them. The chances of catching a serious disease when traveling depends ultimately on luck and logic. And if that doesn’t work, consider my advice about not breathing for your next trip. I’m telling you, it would work!

More Information

International diseases for travelers

Countries with Avian (Bird) Flu

What is Purell?

What is Airborne and where to buy it?

A former Hollywood producer, Susan Michelle has since chucked mainstream Tinsel Town for more authentic pastures around the globe as the “face” of the fashion-forward Compass travel lifestyle brand. Despite numerous tequila-laden trips to Mexico, she has never had Montezuma’s Revenge, but she has puked on the Munich subway. For more on Susan & Compass, visit

Filed under: 170