What to wear to the airport if you have to fly during the pandemic

A man boards on a plane as flights resume during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Riga international airport, Latvia May 18, 2020.

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A man boards on a plane as flights resume during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Riga international airport, Latvia May 18, 2020.
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Ints Kalnins/REUTERS
  • If you need to fly during the pandemic, wearing a face covering – whether it’s a cloth mask or face shield – is essential.
  • Latex gloves can protect your hands from germs, but be careful when taking them off and sanitize your hands between changing pairs.
  • You don’t need a hazmat suit, but be sure to take your clothes and shoes off once you get to your destination.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Air travel is one of the first things people started to cut back on after the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus a pandemic.

But sometimes avoiding air travel isn’t possible.

Most major airlines now require passengers to wear a face mask to fly. Some travelers even have been spotted wearing plastic ponchos, googles, and even hazmat suits. Here’s what you need to wear to safely fly during the pandemic – and what’s not necessary, even if it helps with your peace of mind.

Face coverings are the most important part of your journey

A pilot gets his temperature checked at a sanitary checkpoint, during a media tour to show sanitary measures taken against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at Mariano Escobedo International Airport in Apodaca, Mexico May 18, 2020.

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A pilot gets his temperature checked at a sanitary checkpoint, during a media tour to show sanitary measures taken against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at Mariano Escobedo International Airport in Apodaca, Mexico May 18, 2020.
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Daniel Becerril/REUTERS

Many airlines are now requiring passengers to wear face masks to get on planes.

A face mask is by far the most important thing to wear on your flight, according to experts. Cloth masks can prevent you from spreading germs to other people in crowded spaces.

While N95 respirators can help guard you against splashes and particle droplets from a cough or sneeze, there should be reserved for medical professionals or people who come into direct contact with coronavirus patients.

Cloth masks may be the most popular protective gear these days, but they are not the only option.

Experts have previously told Insider that face shields could be an effective option for blocking out droplets. The clear plastic barriers are less permeable than cloth masks, they can be easily sanitized, and they prevent you from touching your face.

While they come in various shapes and sizes, the best ones extends below the chin and ears.

Face shield graphic

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Ruobing Su/Business Insider

Regardless of what type of covering you choose – or if you decide to layer a cloth mask with a face shield – make sure you’re wearing your mask properly.

Gloves can help keep your hands clean, but be careful taking them off

Hospital gloves

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Getty Images/Joe Raedle

The CDC does not recommend people wear latex gloves in their day to day lives, as many people do not know how to safely take them off.

Taking them off improperly could expose you and other people to more germs, so it’s typically better to just wash your hands frequently.

However, if wearing gloves will give you peace of mind, you can do so as long as you’re careful.

Otherwise, frequently using a hand sanitizer that’s at least 62% alcohol on your flight is effective way to kill germs until you can get to a sink.

According to the CDC, you should sanitize your hands before handling the gloves and slipping them on. Avoid touching your face while you have them on.

When you’ve come into contact with a high touch area and it’s time to remove your gloves, Dr. Dean Winslow, an infectious diseases specialist at Stanford Health Care, previously told Business Insider there’s a specific technique people should use.

“You should remove your gloves by pinching one from outside with one gloved hand, and using your clean hand to reach inside the glove to remove the other one,” Winslow told Business Insider. “Even after you do that, with good technique, practice good hand hygiene.”

After you take them off, put the gloves in the trash and make sure to sanitize your hands again before putting on another pair.

Once you sit down, sanitize everything around you

When you make it to your seat, sanitizing the surrounding area is vital.

Armrests, seats, tray tables, seat belts, and even the window are all high-touch areas that can expose you to germs.

Make sure you bring disinfectant wipes that contain at least alcohol, 0.5% hydrogen peroxide, or 0.1% sodium hypochlorite – like Lysol or bleach – for your flight. Rubbing down the surface takes a few minutes to be effective, according to a recent Lancet study.

Once you’re done, make sure to clean your hands with a hand sanitizer.

You don’t need a hazmat suit

FILE PHOTO: File picture of a health worker after spraying disinfectant inside a Vietnam Airlines plane

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FILE PHOTO: File picture of a health worker after spraying disinfectant inside a Vietnam Airlines plane
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Reuters

A hazmat might make you feel more secure, but experts previously told Insider that you don’t need one to keep safe, and a set of clean clothes should suffice.

“It’s primarily spread by droplets, so you’d need to be thinking about if someone is coughing or sneezing directly on you, or brushing up against something with droplets. Then you’d have to touch that part of the clothing and touch your face to get infected,” Dr. Sue Anne Bell, a nurse scientist, family nurse practitioner, and professor at the University of Michigan previously told Insider.

Put your airplane clothes in a plastic garbage bag once you arrive at your new location. If you can, do so in an entryway or outside.

Take your shoes off before you enter the house. Leaving shoes outside your house or in a porch or hallway can prevent germs from being tracked inside.

After you have all of your airplane gear off, make sure to shower and put on a clean set of clothes.

Be sure to wash your clothes in a washer and dryer – the sooner the better.

Googles can prevent you from touching your eyes, so bringing a pair isn’t a bad idea

Goggles are worn by medical professionals to keep them safe from viral particles, and they could protect you on your flight, too.

Linsey Marr, an expert in airborne disease transmission at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute, told the New York Times that while wearing a mask to cover your nose and mouth is the most important requirement from your flight, goggles don’t hurt.

“Goggles aren’t a bad idea, especially if they will prevent you from touching your eyes,” Marr said.

Make sure to wear socks so your bare feet don’t touch the airport floor at security

Security checkpoint

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NDREAS SOLARO / Getty Images

Taking off your shoes to pass through the terminal security checkpoint airport was once a nuisance. Now, doing so without any socks on underneath your footwear could be a health risk.

Charles Gerba, a microbiologist and professor at the University of Arizona, told CNBC that people should be sure to wear socks to prevent the spread of germs.

Once you’re through security, put your shoes back on and thoroughly sanitize your hands.

Read More:

How to thoroughly and safely decontaminate your home without exposing yourself to too much disinfectant

How medical workers decontaminate their clothes when they get home from treating coronavirus patients, and why you don’t have to do the same

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