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If you’re a germophobe, there’s pretty much nothing worse than taking public transit. Between the crusty subway seats, those who put their feet up on the train and pretty much everyone on a public bus, germs are freaking everywhere.

Even if you’re not a germophobe, you’ve got to admit public transportation is a breeding ground of uncleanliness, filled with hidden grossness that no one wants to actually think about. So is it a wonder that it also makes us sick?

That’s right, according to a study from the University of Nottingham in the U.K., those who take public transportation are six times more likely to suffer from acute respiratory illnesses than those who commute solo. The slightly good news? If you’re a daily rider, your chances are slightly lower than an occasional user, because you have time to build up an immunity to the erm, level of grossness that happens on public buses, trains and subway systems.

Even better news? A more recent study by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine suggests that while respiratory illnesses may be more likely, you’re less likely to catch something like the flu. After all, how often does someone on the bus actually sneeze in your face?

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Seems like a lot of conflicting research to us… but then again, isn’t that the point of every study ever? So even if science is still trying to figure itself out on this one, we have some practical suggestions on how to avoid becoming ill if you must take public transport, and what to do to protect yourself.

1. Wear gloves

Sure, you’d look silly doing this in the middle of summer, but right now it’s perfectly acceptable. And if you’re wearing gloves that means when you touch the same poles, seats and handlebars as everyone else, you’re avoiding skin contact wherever possible.

2. Wash your hands

Caught without gloves? Not to worry, just make sure that you wash your hands whenever you get to where you’re going, and definitely before you eat a thing. It’s also important to remember not to touch your face — germs will find their way into those orifices before you know it.

3. Carry some tissue

Nope, not for when you sneeze, but for when other people sneeze. If your co-rider is letting out some juicy coughs or sneezes, press a tissue to your own nose for 30 seconds and close your eyes. This way you’ll be semi-protected from the flying particles around you.

4. Keep your cell phone tucked away

As tempting as it may be to check emails, text or play some Candy Crush, whipping out the phones only gives germs yet another surface area to stick to. Plus, you’ll put it up to your face eventually when someone does call, giving germs lots of time to make the jump into your body.

5. Change your clothes when you get home

How many of us flop down on our couch in our street clothes without even thinking about it when we get home? Turns out, those comfy home sweats are good for more than just lounging: changing into them eliminates the transfer of outside germs onto our couch (or bed), where we tend to just veg out. And, more often than not, enjoy a TV dinner.

6. Don’t be one of those people

If you’re sick, stay home. Riding transit will only help spread your sickness to everyone around you. No one likes it when an obviously sick person heads out to work like a hero, so try not to become one of those guys yourself.

Happy riding!

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