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Donna Duberg examines hygiene and infection prevention while traveling in an ongoing series on SCA’s Tork Better Business Center.  

From maneuvering through airports and changing diapers, traveling with family gets awfully hectic.

According to the U.S. Travel Association, family travelers — those traveling with either children or grandchildren — take an average of 4.5 trips each year and make up 30 percent of U.S. adult leisure travelers.

Many of these trips can be interrupted or ruined with runny noses, high fevers or even trips to the hospital. Here are six hygiene tips to keep in mind when traveling with family:

1.       Study hygiene tips prior to the trip. Awareness and proper education is the only effective way to ensure your family follows the right hygiene practices while traveling. Remind children about the importance of washing hands and to be wary of their surroundings, particularly high traffic areas like airports.

2.       Prepare hygiene travel kits. Keeping a hygiene travel kit on hand will be helpful when water and soap isn’t as easily accessible. The kit should include hand sanitizer, face masks and sanitizing wipes – things that you can immediately pull out when in the presence of people who are ill or objects that could harbor germs such as chairs, tables and door handles.

3.       Encourage handwashing. An SCA survey showed that nearly four in ten adults admit to not washing their hands after sneezing, coughing or after blowing their nose and 58 percent have witnessed others leaving a public restroom without washing their hands. Now imagine how well children follow those rules. Make sure that everyone is using the proper method of washing hands in order to reduce the risk of cross-contamination.  

4.       Prevent infections. Make sure your family is vaccinated if you are leaving the country. Vaccines take time to become effective so try to visit the doctor at least four to six weeks prior to your trip. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention provides a recommended list of immunizations that you should consider. Regardless, be sure that you and your family are up to date with all required vaccinations in addition to obtaining a physical.

5.       Maintain personal hygiene. If possible, make sure that all members of the family maintain a hygiene regimen every day while traveling. As always, this includes daily showers, brushing your teeth and wearing clean clothes including underwear (make sure you pack enough or do laundry!).

6.       Assess your hotel room. Remember to check your accommodations for cleanliness. A room that is visibly dirty or smells isn’t a good sign. All your personal hygiene efforts could be of little use if your surroundings are germy.

About Donna Duberg

Donna Duberg, an expert in hygiene and an authority on disease prevention, is an assistant professor of clinical laboratory science at Saint Louis University. She has been lauded as a credible media source both nationally and in St. Louis, where she makes recurring appearances as the “St. Louis Germ Expert” on local FOX newscasts. Duberg believes that proper hand sanitation techniques combined with a consistent cleaning regimen can go a long way to halt the spread of germs and viruses, whether in the privacy of one’s home or in a public area.