The media has been abuzz with the news about coronavirus, but it’s also cold and flu season this time of year. Regardless of what illnesses are in circulation right now, it’s always smart to be prepared and to avoid getting sick with a few simple practices you can start immediately. Rather than stay home and worry about what might happen, business travelers can still travel and greatly reduce their risk of catching any illness, if you follow these basic steps.

1. Cough and sneeze into the crook your elbow

Business travelers can reduce the chance of getting sick if they practice these five tips.

Don’t sneeze into your hands or even a tissue; sneeze into your elbow or sleeve.

We were all taught as kids to cover our mouth with out hands when we sneeze or cough, but that’s actually bad advice.

Picture this scenario: Someone with a cold sneezes into their hands, wipes their hands on their pants, and then shakes hands with you.

Gross, right?

That’s why you need to sneeze and cough into the crook of your elbow or at least onto the sleeve of a long-sleeve shirt. (There’s a great YouTube video on the subject that you should watch.)

2. Wash your hands for 20 seconds

Whenever you blow your nose, use the bathroom, or forget and cough/sneeze into your hands, you need to wash your hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds. (Here’s the CDC’s recommendations on hand washing.)

The easiest way to count 20 seconds is to sing the alphabet song, or sing “Happy Birthday” twice. You can do it in your head if you would like, especially if you’re in public, but if you have dreams of Broadway, then go ahead and belt it out!

3. Carry a SMALL bottle of hand sanitizer

You’re going to be in places when you can’t wash your hands right away, but you know you need to wash your hands quickly. Pull out your small bottle of hand sanitizer and rub some on your hands like lotion.

Remember to get a small bottle (3.4 ounces or 100 ml) when you’re traveling by plane, since the TSA doesn’t allow anything bigger through the security checkpoints.

4. Wipe down surfaces in the airport and airplane

Believe it or not, one of the cleanest places in your average airport are the toilets. The dirtiest place? The armrests at the gate areas. And the dirtiest area on the plane? The armrests, tray tables, and the seat back pockets.

Carry a few disinfectant wipes with you in a small plastic bag. When you get on a plane, wipe down the armrests, tray table, and any other hard surface you’re going to come into contact with.

Similarly, don’t put anything in the seat pockets, because those things are almost never cleaned out and certainly never wiped out, so you don’t (want to) know what’s going on in there. If you have to handle anything in the pocket, wipe it down first, and then use your hand sanitizer afterward.

5. Stay hydrated

One way to help you avoid getting sick is to stay hydrated in the first place. Airplanes are very dry environments, and you lose a lot of moisture in them. So drink extra water and avoid diuretics like coffee, tea, and soda.

Also, don’t drink from water fountains. Not just because of the coronavirus, but because public drinking fountains are a veritable cornucopia of germs and bacteria. Carry a refillable water bottle and then refill it at a water bottle refilling station.

6. Other steps

There are a few other things business travelers can do to help prevent any kind of respiratory illness, as per recommendations from the CDC and other sources:

  • Don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth if you haven’t washed your hands.
  • Stay home when you’re sick. Do not travel, or even go to work!
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces, including restaurant tables and counters. You don’t know who was there before you.
  • It’s a good idea to clean and disinfect your laptop, tablet, and mobile phone too.

Business travelers, are you taking any special steps to avoid getting sick when you travel? How do you stay healthy on the road? Share your thoughts with us on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter stream. You can also find us on our Instagram page at @TravelproIntl.

Photo credit: Tina Franklin (Flickr, Creative Commons 2.0)