Don't forget to pack the hand sanitizer.


About 10 percent of what you touch at the airport is carrying a virus — and the most heavily infested place is one you cannot avoid.

The security checkpoint trays are the germiest things at the airport, according to a study published this week in BMC Infectious Diseases.

TSA Screens Passengers At Denver International Airport
Credit: John Moore/Getty Images

Researchers from the University of Nottingham and the Finnish National Institute for Health and Welfare swabbed services around the Helsinki-Vantaa airport to identify the places with the most germs.

Although the security trays had the highest count of bacteria, other high-risk areas were near the cash registers at shops, along staircase railings, on the counters where passports are checked, in children’s play areas, and in the air all around the airport. The most common virus found was rhinovirus, which causes the common cold.

How to Avoid Germs at the Airport

In order to combat the germs all around you at the airport, the study’s researchers recommend vigilant hand washing and practicing “careful coughing hygiene.”

“People can help to minimise contagion by hygienic hand washing and coughing into a hankerchief, tissue, or sleeve at all times but especially in public places,” Jonathan Van Tam, professor of health protection at the university, said in a statement. “These simple precautions can help prevent pandemics and are most important in crowded areas like airports that have a high volume of people travelling to and from many different parts of the world.”

Trays have a tendency to collect germs — whether in the airport or on the plane. A 2015 study found that airplane tray tables had the most bacteria — with an average of 2,155 colony-forming units per square inch — of any surface in the cabin.