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Avoiding Germs on Public Transportation

Updated on December 23, 2010

As much as I love public transportation (cheap, pretty reliable, can read or zone out, no traffic headaches, environmentally-friendly), sometimes I feel like I've walked into a giant petri dish when I enter a BART train on my way to work.

The reality is there are all sorts of people on your subway, bus, metro or train, and not all of them are healthy. Many don't bother to cover their mouths when they sneeze or cough. I'm not a germophobe; I just don't want to get sick!

What can you do to prevent getting sick? I've compiled a bunch of wisdom I've gotten from friends and friends-of-friends, and from lessons I've learned the hard way. If you have tips of your own, please share them in the comments at the bottom.

1. Go to the ends of the trains.

Fewer people = fewer germs running around. Avoid the middle where commuters are packed in like sardines.

2. Leave the abandoned newspaper alone.

Sure, you're bored. Someone's left a perfectly good copy of the daily paper on the seat. They've also left a perfectly good coating of their cooties all over it when they sneezed into it. Try meditating instead.

3. Don't touch anything.

Don't grab the handrails. Don't touch the seat. They're filthy. Try to adopt a stable stance to keep yourself steady while the train accelerates and decelerates. Or lean against the vertical rails, the edge of a seat, or even against the doors that won't be opening.

4. If it stinks, keep moving.

BART, especially off-hours, always seems to attract the odd homeless guy that's clearly Patient Zero for the next plague. If you somehow miss his sneezing and coughing directly into the air, you'll find his stench unmistakeable. Hold your breath and keep walking into the next car.

5. Pick the darker, emptier cabins.

Some subway cars are darker than others, and people seem to avoid them. Bacteria and viruses go where their vectors go, so I suggest going to the relatively lonely cars, even if they're a bit dim.

6. If you touched something, hands out of the pockets.

If the car you're in lurches forward, and you have to grab onto a handrail or else get WAY too intimate with the guy sitting next to you, then don't put your hands back into your pockets. You'll line your pockets and anything in them (like your keys, phone, wallet and other things you'll be touching again later) with noxious bacteria. Keep 'em out until you can wash your hands.

7. Wash your hands when you get to your destination.

Get some soap (doesn't have to be antibacterial), and lather up.

8. Move away from the coughers and hold your breath.

If you're stuck in close quarters with someone that sounds like he's contracted a tuberculosis-bubonic plague hybrid and begins coughing and/or sneezing, hold your breath and move far away. Don't worry about offending him. He'd do the same if you were Typhoid Mary.

9. Avoid children.

Ever wonder why teachers and parents are sick more often than the rest of us? The inventor of Airborne was a teacher sick and tired of being...sick and tired. Kids haven't usually learned to cover up their noses and mouths when they cough and sneeze. They launch their germ spray right into the cabin. Love them and leave them alone.

10. Avoid your cellphone.

Thanks to the constant heat and intermittent moisture from your breath, it's a lush, tropical paradise for pathogens. Sanitize it often or avoid using it when your immune system is battling against germs underground.

Ride public transit? How do you avoid getting sick?

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    • BlissfulWriter profile image

      BlissfulWriter 6 years ago

      I've also heard that the cellphone has a lot of germs -- more than you would think. Also keep the immune system up to tip-top shape by exercising and decreasing stress.

    • shwetha123 profile image

      Shwetha Shetty 6 years ago

      Great advice! Very useful for me as I travel a lot. Thanks for sharing.

    • profile image

      Nancy 6 years ago

      The key is not to live in a bubble but to build your health so you're not prone to disease. The same bacteria that will make one person deathly ill will not harm a healthier person. A great book is 'Toxemia Explained.' It's not a perfect book but it will give you the gist. Then do your body a huge favor and go vegan. If your immunity is good and your body is not burdened with chemicals and processing animal products and junk foods, you will not get sick.

    • profile image

      thanks 7 years ago

      thanks for the info

    • profile image

      joseph 8 years ago

      I was holding the hand rail on the 7 train and by mistake I touched my mouth a couple of days latter the gland on the left side of my throat got swollen and severe pain when I spoke & swolled I don't know what type of germ I contracted but it's a tough one I on 500mg. of amoxicillin it's been 4 day's and I'm slowly improving

    • profile image

      Sarah Hesley 8 years ago

      I am a smart person. I personally don't mind public transportation - I touch the hand rails when bus or train lurches to quickly. One thing: whenever I get off the bus somewhere,especially my house,I always go wash my hands before I touch anything,such as food. My mother said to me that public transportation is loaded with bacteria. Or,I carry hand sanitizer with me. Or even,I take a full shower also to prevent from catching the germs from the bus. I like the bus,although it's filthy. Same goes with any passenger train. They can't be seen with the naked eyes. I know what I am doing - I personally don't think that everyone recognizes that public transportation is contaminated - we never knew who rode them before us.

    • vic profile image

      vic 11 years ago

      I love this hub. Very informative. Thanks.