You’ve been thinking of travel since day one of lockdown. But is it safe to travel on airplanes? And what do you need to do to increase your odds of staying healthy? You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers from one of the top docs in NYC, Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, former director of Women’s Cardiovascular Prevention, Health and Wellness at Mt. Sinai Heart in New York City and of Women’s Heart Health at Northwell Lenox Hill, as well as one of the foremost researchers in her field.
You’ve been thinking of travel since day one of lockdown. But is it safe to travel on airplanes? And what do you need to do to increase your odds of staying healthy? You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers from one of the top docs in NYC, Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, former director of Women’s Cardiovascular Prevention, Health and Wellness at Mt. Sinai Heart in New York City and of Women’s Heart Health at Northwell Lenox Hill, as well as one of the foremost researchers in her field. She's now in private practice, for Preventative Cardiology in NYC, so in other words, she knows her stuff.
The nutshell is that it’s suboptimal to travel right now, whether you’re on a plane or in a car, as both have their own unique risks to COVID-19 exposure. It’s also not great to go to the grocery store, eat in a restaurant or visit your elderly parents; we are living in a pandemic world. But we all have to get back to living (whatever that means to you), as staying hermetically sealed in a bunker until this is over creates its own set of issues, and your emotional health is just as important as your physical. For those of you who are going to take the calculated risks associated with travel, taking precautions to stay healthy is imperative. Whether to travel or not is a personal decision, and either way you should be following some safety protocols. Here are some guidelines if you decide to fly.
1. Wear your mask. In preparing for our first flight, we checked in with Dr. Steinbaum and this was her first piece of advice. It’s as simple as that to mitigate (though nothing eliminates) the risks of contagion. Consider a KN95 mask, which is more comfortable (save the medical masks for our frontline workers), and try not take it off once on board the airplane.
2. Wash your hands frequently. Good old soap and water will remove the virus should you come in contact with it, but make sure to wash for 20 seconds or more using warm water that’s at least 72 degrees. Also, don’t touch your face, mouth or eyes, and practice especially good hygiene during this time.
3. Always carry hand sanitizer with you. Your hand sanitizer should contain at least 60% alcohol. We did a whole article on luxury hand sanitizers (seriously) that are overachievers with at least 70%, as well as ingredients to moisturize your skin and leave you with a more pleasant scent than the common Purell. TSA is allowing passengers to bring hand sanitizer in a container of up to 12 ounces, which is well above the normal restrictions for carry-on liquids.
4. Wipe down your seat area on the airplane. Bring something to use when you get on the airplane to disinfect surfaces, like PlaneAire spray or Lysol wipes. The airlines are cleaning their airplanes with enhanced technology, but take control of your own destiny and add the additional precaution of disinfecting your space.
5. Consider wearing gloves when going to the airplane bathroom. You can’t get around an airplane bathroom without touching surfaces, so do your business, take off your gloves and wash your hands well. Gloves are single-use, so take them off correctly, which means pulling them off by the bottom, and dispose of them properly. Disinfect your hands with hand sanitizer when back at your seat as an additional precaution. We know it sounds like a hustle, but taking these additional steps increases your chances of staying healthy.
6. Social distance. Right now, Delta seems to be the only airline adhering to the reduced capacity restrictions on airplanes, but even then, you are absolutely within the six feet of other passengers. When you can help it, stay six feet apart. We normally run out of the airplane as quickly as we can, but if possible, wait for the people ahead of you to get their luggage and walk at least six feet ahead before getting up and retrieving your luggage. If everyone works together, it will increase our chances of staying healthy and not infecting fellow travelers or becoming infected ourselves.
This is a brave new world of travel, but do what you can to increase your chances of staying healthy, whether that means a trip to Aspen (in which case you’re probably flying private anyway) or a trip to the grocery store.