Air travel has slowed considerably in the wake of Coronavirus, but if you absolutely MUST fly (or are simply trying to get home), here’s how to disinfect your airplane seat and stay healthy while flying
On March 15, the Singapore government announced a 30-day travel advisory instructing Singaporeans to avoid all non-essential travel so as to avoid contracting (or spreading) the Coronavirus.
But what if you are faced with essential travel? Or what if your family is already abroad for school holidays, and needs to make its way back home? We’ve put together six essential tips for flying during Coronavirus – from how to properly disinfect your airplane seat to what you should wear to protect yourself (not a mask!). Read on for more, mamas!
1. Wash Your Hands and Avoid Touching Your Face (duh)
We’ve made this pretty clear by now, but washing your hands with soap is absolutely THE most effective thing you can do to prevent the spread of Coronavirus. This is a good explanation of how soap works to kill germs on a molecular level – unsurprisingly if you’re on a plane and touching lots of surfaces and foreign objects, or blowing your nose, or wiping your eyes, wash your hands each and every time. And try to use your elbow or a tissue to open the bathroom door afterwards!
2. Choose a Window Seat
As cited in the New York Times, a flu study done by Emory University found that passengers were less likely to transmit droplet-spread infections to others who were sitting at least two seats away – i.e. you’re less likely to catch something from that sneezing person who’s walking up and down the aisle if you’re sitting by the window. The study also found that 80% of people sitting in aisle seats get up during a flight (and are thus exposed to more people), compared to just 40% of people in window seats. We suggest getting up only to wash your hands, stretch your legs, and use the toilet!
3. Wipe Down Hard Surfaces and Leather Seats
Take a cue from Naomi Campbell and thoroughly wipe down all the hard surfaces around your seat before sitting down. We know that Coronavirus is transmitted via droplets, and that some of those can last for days on hard surfaces. So wipe down everything in sight: tray tables, armrests, your window and window shade (and you should be sitting by the window!), your video screen and the remote. The same goes for non-porous surfaces like leather/pleather seats and seat back pockets – but NOT for upholstered seats, which could a) get wet (not pleasant for you to sit on!) and b) stay damp, which would actually lead to the spread of germs. This is where creating a natural barrier can come in handy (more on that below).
Anti-bacterial wipes like these (which are 75% alcohol) should do the trick. Hopefully in the coming months wipes from popular brands like Lysol and Clorox will be available again, but in a pinch you could also try using a spray hand sanitizer with high-alcohol content and a clean, disposable cloth, or pick up alcohol wipes from the drugstore (which we’ve seen recently in Guardian). Whatever you use, be sure to let the surface dry naturally – usually for around 30 seconds to a minute – to ensure efficacy.
Read more: How to make your own Hand Sanitizer
4. Use a tissue to touch the video screen or remote
Anything you can do to create a physical barrier is great. As Professor Vicki Stover Hertzberg of Emory told the New York Times, using a tissue or paper towel ensures there’s a barrier between your hands and a surface that might have droplets. Whether or not you use a tissue (and then dispose of it), try to use hand sanitizer right after just in case.
5. Only wear a mask IF you have respiratory symptoms
As “airline doctor” David Powell, a medical advisor to the International Air Transport Association, told Bloomberg back in February, “Masks and gloves do a better job of spreading bugs than stopping them.” That’s because a mask is going to be uncomfortable, and chances are you’ll end up touching your face to adjust it, and then you’re right back to square one! On the other hand, if you do have a stuffy nose and are sneezing and coughing (or you have a fever), masks can help to contain the spread of airborne viral droplets. But even then you should only wear one for so long before swapping in a new one, as masks can allow viruses to be transmitted around and even through them, and once they become moist encourage the growth of viruses and bacteria. See the MOH’s recommendations for more tips about properly wearing masks.
Another important point that Dr. Powell made about flying is that those pesky droplets are unlikely to travel much through the air on an airplane, which includes both fresh air and recirculated air, and is guaranteed to be 99.97% (or better) free of viruses and other particles.
6. Wear a Hooded Sweatshirt and Long Pants
In this recent article, Dr. Thomas Horowitz in California advocated for wearing a hooded sweatshirt and long pants when flying – particularly if sitting on an upholstered seat that can’t easily be wiped down. The reason? All sorts of nasty germs (even like lice, eeew!) can live in that fabric, and can even get into your hair (hence the protection of the hoodie). We know it’s not the chicest look, but at least you’ll be comfortable – and clean!
In addition to all of the above tips, it’s essential to stay hydrated and try to eat healthy, wholesome meals and snacks to boost immunity both before and during the flight (it can be a challenge, we know!). All of these are of course just additional precautions on top of what airlines already do, and we’re blessed to live in the region that’s home to the cleanest airlines in the world. We hope these tips give you peace of mind, mamas, and wish you safe and healthy travels. Here’s hoping we can all start putting these tips to use again soon!