Fear of the Fomite

What do you do while traveling on planes and through airports? Do you people watch? Do you wonder about other people, such as where they’re going or coming from? We’ve spent the better part of today doing this.

But, just know that it hasn’t been the easiest day of travel. Our first flight left the airport 45 minutes late!  It was a 6 a.m. flight – the first out of our small, regional airport. We boarded on time but then were told that we had to be de-iced and it would take an additional 20-30 minutes. Being de-iced prior to an early morning winter flight in the mid-west is not unusual. But, the delay of forty-five minutes hugely ate into the thirty-six minutes we between arrival in Chicago and our next flight out. Essentially, we landed when we were supposed to be boarding!

Fortunately, after a brisk walk through the airport, we arrived at the gate just as they were making the “final” call for passengers. We were really lucky! The plane was full and we were on our way to Dallas, en route to our final destination in New Mexico. About three-quarters of the way through the flight, something fell and hit me on my lower leg. I looked down and it was a neck pillow! The key here is that it was not my neck pillow, nor did I have any idea of whose it was, but I did know that I did not want to touch it! I developed an immediate fear of the fomite!

Do you know what a fomite is? Well, I do! A fomite is an inanimate object that carries germs. I became well acquainted with these during my tenure as a pediatric nurse practitioner. As you can imagine, sometimes it is necessary to entertain infants and children when you examine them. Years ago, at least for a while in the late ’80s, it was all the rage to have a “stuffed koala or kitty or birdy” attached to your stethoscope. You’d carry your stethoscope from room to room with the stuffed whatever attached, picking up germs as you went along through the day! The stuffed animal – really any stuffed animal – is one of many items that can be a fomite. Eventually, all health care providers realized that our “fomite friends” must be forgotten and removed from use.

So, in looking down towards my feet while sitting on our flight, I knew that I had been hit by a fomite! Due to past experience, I knew one when I saw one! Yuck! I jabbed my husband in the ribs and pointed downward. “Where did that come from?” I asked him.

Naturally, he didn’t know for we had both been dozing.

I indignantly said, “Well, I am not touching it!” At this point,, I repeated the thought I had when I first saw it; “I have a fear of the fomite!” My husband tolerates my oddities pretty well and he totally knew what I meant when I said this. He just smiled at me in return.

So, for the last hour of the flight, after I decided it must have come from the woman seated in front of me, I used my foot to push it toward her seat.  Unfortunately, my fear was cemented when she turned to the side and I saw that she had a mask around her nose and mouth!germ-41369_1280.png

Now, I was even more fearful of the fomite than before.

The flight ended, along with my fear for I never had to touch the fomite. We had one more flight to go, but this one would not be nearly missed – it was delayed four hours!

Sitting in an airport can be interesting. There are many people to watch and consider. Luckily, when we finally flew, there were not any fomites to be fearful of on the final fight.

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