[Disclaimer: I am STRONGLY recommending against ANY travel in the coming months due to the coronavirus outbreak. STAY HOME! These are germ-fighting techniques I’ve refined as a wheelchair traveler with an autoimmune disorder that could help others while trying to avoid coronavirus or other illnesses.]
I make no secret of the fact that I’m a germaphobe. To be more specific, I have something called emetophobia, or a panic-inducing fear of throwing up. I know it may sound weird, but it’s actually quite common. As a result, I’m almost paranoid about germs related to norovirus, the germ that causes the dreaded stomach bug, especially when I travel during colder months.
This means I’ve become something of an “expert” on fighting germs both at home and when I travel, especially because my immune system with multiple sclerosis is modified. Here are my tried-and-true methods for fighting germs that are also helping keep me healthy during this coronavirus outbreak.
1. Know your body and how it reacts to germs. Every person with a chronic illness or injury is different, so it’s important to know what will happen to you if you get sick, especially if you’re far from home. My immune system overreacts when I get sick, so even a cold can severely weaken my body.
For people with spinal cord injuries or spinal muscular atrophy, any illness that comes with a cough can be fatal. A stomach bug can be awful for wheelchair users who can’t use a toilet in a hurry. Keep your body in mind so you know how extreme you have to be when avoiding germs.
2. Know where germs can be found. Technically, you can find germs almost everywhere. However, most people can get away with just focusing on the hotspots instead of rolling everywhere with a constantly spraying Lysol can. Bathrooms, of course, are a typical hotbed of germs. Consider toilet seats, toilet flushers, sink handles, grab bars, door latches, and door handles the prime germ locations.
Hotel room phones and remote controls are germ accumulators. On planes, think of arm rests, seat belt latches, and tray tables. I’m also wary of pin pads and card readers at stores and other points of sale. In public areas, I’m careful with door handles and elevator buttons.
3. Know where to use sprays and wipes. As much as I would like to spray the world down with bleach, you do have to consider your environment and the people around you. I use wipes on planes, especially because the air vents can cause anything sprayed to land in your neighbor’s personal space. I typically use sprays in hotel rooms, but you can also use wipes. I try to balance the use of each so I don’t run out of either one.
4. Be wary of what you put IN your body, too. Admittedly, I am NOT adventurous when it comes to eating when I travel. It’s not because I’m a picky eater, but rather because I’m afraid of getting sick. If this is a concern for you as well, there are certain situations you can avoid to eat safer foods. First, make sure anything involving meat or poultry is cooked all the way through and served HOT. Avoid street food vendors, but if this is a passion of yours, use vendors with lots of customers to ensure plenty of food turnover.
I love visiting farmers’ markets, but I don’t purchase or sample any food that is lying out in the open (i.e. can be touched by people or insects). You’re much safer if you purchase foods that can be peeled, shelled, or cooked. Avoid salads or drinks with added water or ice in countries with unsafe water sources. Your last resort? Stick to fast food restaurants.
5. Don’t forget yourself and your wheelchair! It doesn’t do you any good to prevent coming into contact with germs on other surfaces if you ignore protecting your own body and your mobility equipment (which is essentially an extension of your body). There are a few sprays out there that put a thin coating on your hands and can repel and kill germs for up to 24 hours. I use these after washing my hands with soap, and also spray my power wheelchair controller and arms frequently.
When I travel, I spray them in my hotel room and just use soap and water in public bathrooms. I’m not a manual chair user, but I know hands plus wheels are an issue. I’ve seen manual chair users who use gloves to avoid callouses, but I don’t know what solution would be best here.
6. These are my product suggestions for fighting germs. Over the years, I’ve learned which disinfecting products are more effective against germs, and specifically norovirus. There is also a list of products that are recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency to help fight against coronavirus. Many of these products can be re-packaged for travel convenience. Please keep in mind that many of these products may currently be unavailable or back-ordered due to high demand. I am also not legally endorsing them or their claims; these are just the products I use.
Clorox Commercial Solutions Bleach-Free Hand Sanitizer. In just 15 seconds, you can kill 99.999% of germs (including norovirus) on your hands with this unique spray-on formula. Tiny droplets sanitize the trouble spots where microorganisms can hide, like palms, fingernails, cuticles, and between fingers and skin furrows. Clorox® Hand Sanitizer is available in a portable 2 oz. bottle as well as in a larger pump and a touchless dispenser.
Sono Travel Safe Medical Grade Disinfecting Wipes. These wipes are particularly great for using during air travel because they smell great. The also kill 99.9999% of germs and bacteria, including viruses such as MRSA, H1N1 and many more. SONO Wipes do not have bleach, alcohol or solvents in them.
Clorox Hydrogen Peroxide Disinfecting Cleaner. This is a powerful cleaning solution that is best for home use. Formulated with patented hydrogen peroxide technology that kills microorganisms quickly on a broad range of surfaces. EPA-registered to kill pathogens on both hard and soft surfaces, this cleaner kills bacteria and viruses in as short as 30 seconds and is perfect for use on high-touch surfaces where germs can be easily transferred from person to person. Clorox Hydrogen Peroxide Disinfecting Cleaner contains plant-based biodegradable surfactants and has no harsh fumes, bleach, VOCs or added fragrance.
Zoono Hand Sanitizer. This sanitizer works by safely bonding to your skin and “physically” killing any germs on the surface so it works even after it has dried. It also kills 99.99% of germs immediately and protects against germs for 24 hours. It’s also water-based, which means it is fundamentally less toxic than typical hand sanitizers, which are predominantly alcohol based.
All Day Hand Sanitizer with 24-Hour Protection. All Day kills 99.99% of germs, bacteria, viruses, fungi and molds that may cause illness and infections in as little as 15 seconds and provides protection for up to 24 hours. All Day is an alcohol-free formula that comes in a slim 10ml pen that with a leak proof cap that makes it easy to carry in your purse, backpack, diaper bag, or vehicle.
7. How to avoid germs when you can’t use sprays or wipes. Let’s face it; you can’t use sanitizing wipes or spray everywhere. This is where you have to get creative. When pressing elevator buttons, I use my knuckle instead of fingertip. When typing my pin on an ATM or point of sale pad, I use my pinky instead of index finger. If it requires a signature with that attached plastic pen, I have the salesperson sign for me. For manual signatures, I use my own pen. To open bathroom doors after washing my hands, I use a paper towel. For hotel room remote controls, I wrap them in a shower cap. Just try to place something between you and items used by the public.
Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase after clicking through the link. Please understand that I have experienced all of these companies, and I recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something through my links. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need them or that they will help you achieve your goals.