The stern-looking official orders you to remove your belt, finish off that nearly-full bottle of water ... and take off your shoes.
Uh oh. Reluctantly, you comply. But did you know that you should ensure to bring a pair of socks — or a mini bottle of sanitiser — along just in case this happens?
That’s because, as you can imagine, the airport floor is actually a rather filthy surface to be going barefoot on.
“Just about every floor surface — at shopping centres, gyms, airports, and other places — is coated in bacteria like E. coli and Staph as well as other pathogens,” says Kathryn H. Jacobsen, Ph.D., a professor of epidemiology and global health at George Mason University in the US, told Conde Nast Traveler.
She warns that if the bacteria gets into your skin, it could place you at risk of an infection (athlete’s foot, anyone?). Those with a weakened immune system or who have cuts in their feet are most at risk.
Harvey Molotch, professor of sociology and metropolitan studies at New York University and author of Against Security, also cautions about going barefoot: “Taking off shoes makes bodies touch foreign surfaces in unaccustomed ways, bringing to mind the ass on the rest room toilet seat.
“But here the danger is clear and present. Bare feet on airport floors spread fungus more frequently than toilet seat residue spreads disease ... not to mention the problem of random objects like paperclips, pens, pencils, wire bits and tacks that fall to the floor where they can puncture the skin.”
Meanwhile, Kathleen M. Stone from the US Podiatric Medical Association has this lovely reminder for us: “You never know where people’s shoes have been. If someone who’s been on a farm walks through the airport, you’ll have fecal matter, too.”
But don’t worry, the risk of infection is actually low, because the area is usually well-ventilated and floors are normally kept dry.
Just a precaution, people.
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