After a particularly rough battle with the flu earlier this year, I've gotten pretty obsessive about watching what I touch in public places. I also carry around antibacterial wipes whenever I fly (a habit I've had for years), and immediately wipe down my tray table, seatbelt, and armrest as soon as I take my seat on a plane. As it turns out, I should probably be paying more attention to what I'm touching in the actual airport before I board.
Insurance Quotes recently took a look at where germs actually are at the airport and complied what they found into a report on germs at the airport that they shared with us here at Lifehacker. They specifically checked during the holiday season when we were in the height of cold/flu season (that's when I got taken down), and when there were more people travelling than usual.
They conducted 18 tests across six different surfaces at three major airports.
The dirtiest place? That self check-in display that we all touch right when we get to the airport without giving it a second thought (or maybe that's just me). I've never once thought about wiping the display down with my antibacterial wipes before checking in, and definitely wouldn't think I need to wash my hands afterwards before grabbing a snack at the airport coffee shop. Now I have even more of a reason to use mobile boarding passes for every flight.
Coming in second was another place I never think to clean: the armrest on the benches you sit on while waiting to board. The third was a culprit I had thought of: the water fountain button, although it's significantly less contaminated than that check-in screen.
Image: Insurance Quotes
On the plane, the biggest bacteria culprits are exactly what you think they'd be. The most bacteria was found on the button to flush the toilet (wash your hands after you touch that thing!), followed by the tray table and then the seat belt buckle.
You can check out the full study here.
Bottom line: airports are dirty places. Wash your hands after you make it through security and before you grab that snack, and wipe down your tray table and seat belt when you get on board. You might look likely a nerdy germaphobe when you pull out a package of wipes at check-in, but you'll be happy you did.