How to Ride the T This Winter—Without Getting Sick

Stay healthy on your commute with tips from Dr. Robin Mayfield.
mbta orange line

Photo by Alex Lau

The T is every germaphobe’s worst nightmare, especially during winter—and for good reason, we’re sorry to report.

“Being in close environments, people being indoors more often and being around other people, [contributes to getting sick],” says Robin Mayfield, a doctor at Somerville’s CareWell urgent care facility. “You can correlate that with being in the T.”

Be that as it may, it’s (regrettably) not plausible to swear off the good old MBTA until cold and flu season passes. What’s a health-conscious commuter to do, then? We asked Mayfield how you can stay healthy on the T.

1. Stay healthy off the T.

Unfortunately, there’s no quick fix for avoiding illness, on the T or otherwise. Mayfield says the best thing you can do is pay attention to your overall wellness, and trust your immune system. “The first line of trying to stay healthy when you’re in a somewhat sick environment would be to practice healthy living,” she says. “Your body’s able to handle it just fine.”

Mayfield emphasizes the importance of a healthy diet heavy on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains; adequate exercise; good sleep; stress relief; and avoiding or quitting cigarettes. If you get those areas under control, you’ll set yourself up for success.

2. Wash your hands.

It’s a no-brainer, but Mayfield says “washing hands is the most important thing of all.” She also recommends not touching your face or eating food with your hands right after an MBTA voyage.

3. Avoid the pole. 

Obviously, there will be times when you need to grab onto a pole or handle for your own safety. But if you have the choice between sitting or standing, it may be wise to park it. “There are certain viruses that are much more so a source of infection on surfaces like poles,” Mayfield confirms.

That said, don’t torture yourself. If you end up holding onto the pole, it’s not the end of the world—just wash your hands afterward, Mayfield says.

4. Lean into the germs.

Believe it. Mayfield says riding the T may actually help your immune system in the long run.

“You may not realize that you’ve been exposed to a certain virus, but your body has mounted a response to it so that when you are exposed to a huge dose of it, you’ve already developed the means of fighting off the infection,” she says. “Completely avoiding a situation so that you don’t get exposed to germs can actually make you much more susceptible to everyday viruses and bacteria.”


Jamie Ducharme Jamie Ducharme, Contributor jducharme@bostonmagazine.com