So, how many times have you entered the airplane, only to find they definitely did not clean your seat. Ugh! It is so disgusting! Virus and illness prevention while flying is often a challenging task.
When you think about how many people per day, and sometimes, per hour have sat, exactly where you are seated now, hair against the seat back, hands all over the television touch screen, pushing the light and call button, and eating off the tray table. If you really really think it out, you may never get on another flight again!
Virus and Illness Prevention while flying is a real concern. However, we are travelers. And the thrill of the flight, the idea of an adventure, the promise of a distant land calls. And we go. Of course we go.
Lately, with the uproar of #flu and #CoronaVirus and the threat of falling ill, being quarantined, and potentially prevented from returning home, (I know that part may be appealing to some) I have been even more vigilant then normal.
While I would not say that I am a germaphobe, I do not enjoy being sick, especially during travel. Therefore, I do take some special precautions when I first board a plane.
What Precautions do I Take? Virus and Illness Prevention While Flying
I carry a large Ziploc bag in my hand when boarding a flight. My bag contains hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, a pack of disinfecting wipes, a face mask, and a pack of tissue. I recently provided a duplicate bag to my husband when we were traveling together. He thought it was smart, but a bit funny, until he saw the visible dirt that he wiped off his tray table – the one he was going to eat on. And remember, that is just the dirt you can see!
How do I Sterilize my Plane Seat?
Before I sit down, I pull out the disinfecting wipes and wipe down anything that a person’s hand, head, or breath may have come in contact with. I start with my seat back, followed by the armrests, tray table, seat belt, television touch screen, light and call buttons, and fan. This generally requires 2 wipes and trying to only touch surfaces with the wipes, not my hands.
I first discovered this kit in 2020, and still find it handy. It contains most everything you need to provide a sanitary area while traveling. It includes a washable seat cover, a mask, sanitizer, a tray table cover, and more. Everything comes in a compact, lightweight carry-on bag!
Washing my Hands – Virus and Illness Prevention While Flying
Once this mission is complete, I wash my hands, ideally with soap and warm water for a minimum of 20 seconds, and then apply hand sanitizer. Be sure to let it air dry completely. If you cannot get to the lavatory, then use the hand sanitizer. It is certainly better than nothing.
Once Seated, Do This!
While air in a plane is somewhat recycled, it seems that the filtration systems on most planes are pretty good. In order to maximize its effects, once seated, turn the air vent above your seat on high and point it straight down at you. This helps to circulate the air down and out. While this is a great precaution, the air blowing right on you can be cold, so be sure to bring a sweater or wrap.
Keep in mind that when people are boarding, deplaning, and walking by, they disturb the flow of air. This can send particles in varying directions and it takes a bit for the air to settle down again. Therefore, it is not a great time to remove your mask to eat or drink.
Wearing a Mask
Speaking of masks, a person within 4 to 6 feet can spray droplets that may get you ill. Hopefully people choose to do the right thing and stay home if they are contagious, or at minimum wear their masks properly, but many do not.
If someone around me is obviously ill, I leave my mask on the entire flight without eating or drinking. While masks do not protect you from everything, I personally feel more comfortable that I may be able to avoid airborne droplets when I have a mask on.
However, do not gain a false sense of safety just because you, or someone around you, is wearing a mask. Of course the efficacy depends on the type of mask you each are wearing, length of exposure, and air flow direction. Overall, masks work to minimize your risks.
Lastly, there are specific masks that are more effective than others. *I find this mask to be effective and comfortable. Most health agencies recommend an N95, KN95, KF94, or FFP2 for maximum protection. If you feel more comfortable, you can place this surgical mask on top as a second barrier of protection.
*This is solely my preference and opinion and is not to be construed as medical facts or advice.
Being Courteous To Others
Obviously if you are ill, it is best not to fly (or really leave your home), so that you do not spread your sickness to others. In the real world, this is sometimes unavoidable. If you must fly, wear a mask. Always use a tissue, or the crook of your elbow, to cover your nose and mouth whenever you sneeze or cough. Avoid using your hands as much as possible. If you must, wash them immediately.
If you are ill, or to prevent illness, wash your hands often and thoroughly. This means for a minimum of 20 seconds in warm water and with soap. Using hand sanitizer after is an extra precaution.
Do not put used snot rags in the seat pocket in front of you. If handing them to a flight attendant for disposal, wrap them securely in something clean first, or warn them so they can be sure to have gloves. And speaking of the seat pocket, think about how many people have handled that magazine. Since we do not know if the #CoronaVirus is lurking on surfaces, it may be best to just skip that reading for now.
Also, when exiting the lavatory, after washing your hands, do not touch the handle to open the door. Use a paper towel. Unfortunately, there is always that someone who did not wash their hands, didn’t wash them thoroughly, or touched their nose or mouth.
Do Not Touch Your Face – Virus and Illness Prevention While Flying
Try not to touch your nose, mouth, eyes, ears, or face. If you videoed yourself, you probably would not believe how many times a day we all touch our faces without realizing. But really, make a conscious effort. If you must touch your face, first sterilize your hands. Afterward, as a courtesy to people around you, wash them again.
Sterilize Your Belongings
If you are using earbuds or a head set, it is a good idea not to put them down on any unclean surface. Same goes for your cellular phone. It is always a good idea to regularly wipe these items with a disinfectant wipe too.
Love Letter to the Airlines
Airlines, It is just a thought, but why not hand each customer boarding a plane a “wellness bag” like my Ziploc. During the safety instructions, or just before them, why not instruct each passenger how to clean their area, what to do with the bag’s contents, and gently remind people of basic hand washing and common courtesy. How hard would it be?
Update April 2022: Most Airlines are still taking additional precautions, such as mandatory face masks. In a fast changing pandemic environment, please also see our Current News Links on Jenny In Wanderland.
Update January 2021: It is mandatory to wear a mask covering your nose and mouth on all flights and in the airport.
In addition to virus and illness prevention while flying, see 15 Ways To Stay Healthy While Traveling.