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How to Avoid Norovirus When Traveling


When you’re confined to a cruise ship, airplane, or other enclosed space on vacation, you’re a prime target for that dreaded (and highly contagious) vacation ruiner: norovirus. But you don’t have to let this nasty bug spoil your trip. Follow these tips to give yourself a fighting chance of staying healthy on vacation.

Pack Portable Soap

Your rental home may claim to come stocked with all the essentials, but news flash: Not everyone considers hand soap a must-have. Better to be safe than sorry by packing a bit of soap to get you through the first night if you’re staying somewhere besides a hotel. These soap sheets are perfect for those situations, and easily kept in your day bag in case you run into a public bathroom that’s out of soap, too.

Bring Wipes

Close up of person in a dress wiping down armrest of an airplane seat with a sanitizing wipe
Jo Panuwat D | Adobe Stock

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC)  warns, “Norovirus spreads quickly from person to person in enclosed places.” That makes airplanes and cruise ships prime breeding grounds for the bug. Imagine if a person who was infected sat in your seat on the flight before you? It happens all the time. Pull out your handy sanitizing wipes to disinfect everywhere they might have touched. The tray table, seatback entertainment screen, and seatbelt buckle are prime suspects. These Lysol wipes come in a re-sealable travel-sized pouch.

Use a Sanitizing Toothbrush

While exact numbers vary, researchers agree that the average toothbrush plays host to millions of germs, from the flu virus to E. coli. Kill whatever lurks on yours with this travel ultraviolet toothbrush sanitizer, which destroys 99.9 percent of germs.

I’m also about to give you the definitive answer to the question of whether the toilet seat should be kept up or down: Always down. As Charles Gerba, a professor of microbiology at the University of Arizona in Tucson bluntly puts it, when you’re flushing the toilet with the lid open, “Polluted water vapor erupts out of the flushing toilet bowl and it can take several hours for these particles to finally settle–not to mention where. If you have your toothbrush too close to the toilet, you are brushing your teeth with what’s in your toilet.”

Keep Shared Surfaces Clean with a Disinfectant Spray

Even if your travel partner falls victim to the Norovirus, you can still save yourself. When sharing a room with someone who’s sick, spray every shared surface with a disinfectant to stop the bug from spreading. This travel-size Lysol Disinfectant Spray kills 99.9 percent of germs within 30 seconds.

Use an Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizer

Close up of person's hands as they apply hand sanitizer from a clear bottle
Евгений Шемякин | Adobe Stock

The best line of defense against germs is to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water, especially before eating or touching your mouth or eyes. That’s not always practical when you’re traveling, though. If you don’t have access to soap or running water, the CDC recommends an alcohol-based hand sanitizer as the next best thing. This eight-pack from Purell should last you a while.

Pro tip: If you have very sensitive skin that renders alcohol-based sanitizers impractical, you can still get some protection from the Eczema-safe and alcohol-free CleanSmart antimicrobial hand sanitizer.

Carry a Travel Washcloth

Travel washcloths are popular in Japan, where paper towels aren’t common in public restrooms. Wet hands transfer germs more easily than dry hands, so skipping that step after a wash is a bad idea. (And it’s never cool to dry your hands on your shirt.) These travel-sized washcloths dry in just a few minutes and are easy to pack.

Bring a Refillable Water Bottle

Staying hydrated keeps your immune system strong. It also keeps your mucous membranes (like your lungs or nose) moist, and therefore more able to resist viruses from entering your body. A folding water bottle is easy to bring pretty much anywhere, and it helps you remember to keep drinking.

Wear an Eye Mask and Earplugs

Close up of woman sleeping on an airplane wearing an eye mask
milkovasa | Adobe Stock

Another way to strengthen your immune system: Getting plenty of rest. Packing an eye mask and earplugs can be the difference between great sleep and no sleep, especially on a plane or in a noisy hotel.

Follow Caroline Morse’s travels on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline and on Twitter @CarolineMorse1.

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