Getting on a plane during COVID: what you should bring
Cramming into a metal box with hundreds of people for hours is not an ideal situation to be in during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, this is the situation many people would find themselves in as they get on a plane for Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year, and other holidays.
If you’re planning to fly soon, here are what you can bring to protect yourself on the trip.
- N95 or KN95 respirators
- Medical masks (such as surgical or procedure masks)
- Eye goggles
- Face shields
- Isolation gowns or coveralls
- Hand sanitizers
Medical masks, face shields, and eye goggles
While some airlines choose to block out their seats to allow for more distance between travelers, most others don’t. This means sitting inches away from strangers for hours, significantly increasing the likelihood of coronavirus transmission.
While mask-wearing is mandatory, protecting everyone on the plane including you, you should still consider leveling up your own protection.
If the person next to you starts sneezing and coughing, even if they’re wearing a mask, do you really feel safe? What if the person next to you pulls their mask down for one moment to drink or eat and then suddenly sneeze/cough? These are possible situations you have to consider before getting on a plane.
To protect yourself from these unpredictable situations, wear medical masks as well as eye protection.
N95 and KN95 respirators
N95 and KN95 are ideal for blocking out germ-carrying droplets and aerosols. These kinds of masks are classified as respiratory protection, which means they offer protection (though not 100%) from respiratory diseases.
Cloth masks, surgical masks or procedure masks are not respiratory protection, which means they cannot protect you from respiratory disease.
However, medical masks are superior to cloth masks in their fluid resistance abilities—blocking out the splashes and sprays of sneezes and coughs, and their filtration abilities—filtering out bacteria, viruses, and small particulate matters.
Read this article for more information on what differentiates various types of masks.
Protective eye goggles
If virus-carrying droplets land in your eyes, you can get infected. Since a mask doesn’t cover your eyes, it’s a good idea to wear eye goggles on the plane.
Eye goggles are better than normal glasses because while normal glasses protect your eyes from the front, eye goggles enclose your eyes from all sides. If a person is sitting next to you, their respiratory fluids will likely come at you from the side.
A face shield protects your whole face from fluids splashes, giving you more coverage than eye goggles. If you are wearing a lower-level medical mask or a cloth mask as oppose to N95 or KN95, wearing a face shield can be a better choice for you.
A face shield can be particularly helpful if you need to pull your mask down to drink water or eat since it’ll still cover the majority of your face. However, a face shield shouldn’t be used as a substitute for masks.
Isolation gowns and coveralls
When you’re taking a flight, your clothes can be contaminated by the seats. This means you can bring germs to your destination, whether that be your home or your family’s home.
One solution to this is to immediately change your clothes when you get to your destination and launder the clothes you took off. Another will be wearing an isolation gown or coverall.
Medical-grade isolation gowns and coveralls have fluid resistance that can protect you from splashes and sprays. And they can be easily discarded before you step into your home.
Gloves or hand sanitizers
You can bring gloves to wear just before touching any potentially contaminated surface. But you need to discard or disinfect the gloves right away, before touching your face, or else it’ll defeat the purpose of the gloves.
You can also bring hand sanitizers to disinfect your hands thoroughly after touching a potentially contaminated surface. Most importantly, disinfect your hands before touching your face.
Common surfaces that are touched by a lot of people are more likely to be contaminated. Examples include doorknobs, self-serving kiosks, inflight magazines, luggage carts, entertainment tablets, the toilet seat, etc.
This concludes a list of items you may want to bring on your next flight. Before you fly, it’s helpful to consider the risks first: are you at high risk of developing severe complications from COVID-19, are the people receiving you at high risk, and how high are the case numbers at your destinations.
Other things to consider include, do local laws at your destination mandate self-quarantine upon arrival, and should you get a coronavirus test before you fly?
The good news is, the risk of air-travel is relatively low because airplanes have powerful air filters that ensure efficient circulation of clean air. But this is no reason to assume that flying is risk-free, especially when social distancing is not observed. No form of public transportation is risk-free during the pandemic, and all we can do is act responsibly for the sake of our own and other’s health.