There may be a link between using public transport and the spread of upper respiratory ailments, which can cause symptoms such as a sore throat. In fact, a study found an association between the development of acute respiratory illness and bus and tram use in the five days before symptom onset, especially in winter
This is most likely because on public transport you tend to be in closer proximity to other people, making it easier for illness to circulate. The same could be said for shopping centres or workplaces. This does not mean you need to avoid public transport altogether, however it justifies the need to practice good hygiene and lifestyle habits, especially during peak cold and flu season. To avoid germs that may cause sore throats during your daily commute:
- Wash your hands regularly ‐ Washing your hands regularly including after a trip on the train or bus, is the simplest and best way to avoid getting sick. When you are in close contact with sick people or contaminated objects on your commute such as bus or train metal poles, hand straps or stair rails, you may accumulate germs on your hands and in turn infect yourself by unknowingly touching your nose, mouth or eyes. Washing your hands with soap and water will help reduce the risk of illness. An alcohol based sanitiser, kept in your handbag, is a convenient alternative.
- Choose the least crowded area ‐ You may be able to reduce your exposure to germs by choosing the least crowded part of the bus, train or tram, or by avoiding travel during peak periods.
- Avoid being close to sick people – If possible, avoid sitting near people who are recognisably sick.
- Walk to and from the station – Fit more exercise into your day by getting off the bus or train one stop early and walking the rest of the way. Several studies have found that people who exercise on a regular basis experience significantly less respiratory tract infections such as the common cold, than those who don’t.2 One of the most common causes of a sore throat is a cold; consequently avoiding a cold reduces the occurrence of a sore throat.3
- Keep up your fluids and consider lozenges – The low humidity in some forms of transport can irritate the mucous membranes of the throat, so keep up your water intake on long trips and have lozenges on hand to keep your throat moist and ease a sore throat.