Odds are you just rattled off a few of the usual suspects, including bathrooms, door handles, and the seating areas around gates. But, according to one doctor, you’re missing a major culprit in the airport germ-spreading madness: Airport security.
“You don’t want to know what you can catch,” an emergency-room doctor, who was simply identified with the pseudonim Mack, told The Points Guy when asked about just how gross the security area of the airport can be. “You don’t want to know.”
But, in case you do want to know, Mack explained to The Points Guy that among other things, you could pick up a fungus when you take off your shoes to walk through the airport scanner.
Specifically, you can pick up “tinea pedis, better known as athlete’s foot,” the website explained.
“In a high-traffic area, the number of people per hour going through a checkpoint is greater at an airport than at a health club,” Dr. Michael J. Trepal, vice president for academic affairs and dean at the New York College of Podiatric Medicine, additionally explained to The Points Guy. “And, theoretically, the more you expose the skin to exogenous pathogens, the more likely you are to be infected. In some cases, you could realistically walk 30 to 40 feet [without shoes].”
Furthermore, you may pick up a virus along your journey through security. In fact, you could be at risk for picking up different strains of the human papilloma virus.
Of course, you could always step on some good ol’ fashioned bacteria that could give you a nasty bug, too.
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“Theoretically, you could pick up a wide variety of bacteria under the skin,” Trepal added. “If you had a break in the skin, one of them could gain entry and set off an infection. And a skin infection of the foot could become a systemic infection, too.”
To deal with this disgusting possibility, Mack explained he’s found a rather easy solution. Just bring an extra pair of socks.
As he described, he typically walks through security, then on the other side, unpacks a fresh pair of socks and swaps those out for his dirty ones. Problem solved. And, though the TSA said in a 2003 study that your risk of contracting something while walking through security is incredibly small, Trepal said he agrees with Mack’s tactics.
“It just goes to good bodily hygiene, like washing your hands,” Trepal explained to The Points Guy. “Try to minimize barefoot contact with foreign surfaces, and try to wear socks [inside your shoes] if you want an extra level of precaution.”
Now, all you’ve got to worry about is those self check-in kiosks, which are riddled with germs. But that’s a story for a different day.