Airport Foot Fungus Risks

Airport security is a topic on many people's minds these days. People are wondering if the measures undertaken at airports really make a difference. Other people are wondering if at least one of these security measures might not be dangerous for passengers: does the practice of removing shoes before going through the airport metal detectors increase one's risk for contracting foot and toenail fungi?

Unsuspecting Host

After all, everything you've ever read about Athlete's foot, for instance, tells you that the Athlete's foot-causing fungus known as tinea pedis is transmitted by treading on surfaces used by the public, such as public shower stalls and locker room floors. What happens is this: someone who is infected with fungus, walks in his bare feet on a damp surface. Fungus spores are shed and lie in wait for an unsuspecting host to pick them up with his own, unshod feet.

While an airport terminal floor isn't normally damp, it is used by many more people than patronize a single gym, nail salon, or public shower stall. Some people feel that hundreds of thousands of airline passengers are being exposed to a health risk in an effort to reduce security risks. Is the trade-off a good one?

If you have a compromised immune system, for instance if you have diabetes, have undergone an organ transplant, or chemotherapy, the danger of foot or toenail fungus is not something to take lightly. It has been estimated that there are 30,000 passengers with compromised immune systems who must travel every year. Taking off their shoes puts them at risk and many feel this risk is unnecessary.

Minimize Risks

So what can you do to protect yourself and minimize the risks? Here's how:

*Wear socks

*Bring disposable slip-on booties such as are worn in hospitals and spas.

*If you have diabetes, explain your situation to the security people and see if you can get out of taking off your shoes. If you must take off your shoes, check to see that the floor is clean before you walk through.

*Bring disposable wet wipes and paper towels with you in your carry-on baggage. Clean and dry your feet before you put on your shoes.

TSA Tips

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) adds these tips:

*Don't wear unusual footwear. That's what the screeners are seeking.

*Avoid shoes with steel tips, heels, shanks, metal buckles, or nails. Tennis shoes are a good bet.

*If your shoes have been known to set off a metal detector alarm, wear a different pair of shoes while traveling.

*If you stow a separate pair of shoes in your carry-on bag, these can also be problematic. It's best to store them at the top of your bag to make them more easily available for inspection.