Dr. Karp’s Tips on Flying Safely with Kids During Coronavirus

boy in airplane seat with mask

Jetsetters aren’t the only ones who flock to airports and airplanes, these spaces are also a hotspot…for germs! Between the crowds, confined aircrafts, and hundreds of high-touch surfaces, there tons of ways to scoop up an unwanted souvenir in the form of coronavirus.

You may get lucky and your flight could be empty, leaving you plenty of room to keep your distance…or you could find yourself shoulder-to-shoulder with several total strangers. The problem is, you may not know how full your plane will be when you book your ticket! So, unless you can pay to have extra space between yourself and your neighbor, prepare to get cozier with your fellow flyers than you may like.

Every airline, airport, and flight may be a little different. Because there are so many aspects of air travel that are, well, up in the air. I’d recommend driving to your destination if possible and if you don’t have to spend too many days in hotels. Of course, you’ll want to scrub REALLY well after filling up your tank or using public restrooms. But, driving generally poses fewer coronavirus risks as long as you are traveling with your sheltering-in-place posse (traveling in a car with closed windows hugely increases the risk of COVID transmission). Plus, just think about the memories you and your little ones can make on the open road!

However, if you must fly, here are a few ways to keep yourself and your family as safe as possible:

Wear a mask

Coronavirus is mostly spread through the droplets we expel while coughing, sneezing, talking—and even breathing. That means you and everyone in your family over the age of 2 should wear a mask to protect yourselves…and the people around you! It’s especially important to wear your mask on the plane where it’s much harder to keep physical distance, but it’s still important to wear it at the airport (especially when you’re near others).

Eat at home or at your destination if possible

Not only does eating require you to spend time with your mask off, but you risk spreading germs every time you handle your face mask to take it off or put it on. Consider bringing a few clean ones to avoid this. Pro tip: Don’t touch the front of your mask to take it off! Your mask is filtering out the virus, meaning that those icky droplets you’re trying to keep out are getting caught in the fabric of your mask.

Scrub your hands…often

And I mean scrub. To give germs the heave-ho, a quick rinse won’t cut it. You need to vigorously rub them off. Make sure you and your children are lathering up  your hands (or using hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol) after touching communal objects (door handles, the faucet, the rail on the escalator, etc.) and before and after touching your face…that includes before and after using your mask.

Keep your distance when you can

When you line up for TSA or even for the bathroom, make sure you’re at least 6 feet from your neighbors. While you’re waiting for your flight, try to stake out a spot in the lounge away from others. If you must dine at the airport, choose the least crowded eatery.

Wipe down your seat and surrounding area on the plane

Though germs sailing through the recirculated plane air are cause for concern, viruses can also spread through touch. Once you’re on the plane, wipe down your seat, tray table, seatbelt, armrests, and anything else your kiddos can get their hands (or mouths!) on. (The best wipes to use are a little DIY magic: fold up some paper towels, stuff them in a zip-lock bag, and douse them with some rubbing alcohol).

Be prepared to self-isolate when you arrive

Certain states are requiring travelers (particularly from other states with big outbreaks) to quarantine for two weeks to avoid spreading the virus. Be sure to read up before you go to find out if this affects your family. But refraining from non-essential activities isn’t a bad practice, no matter where you’re traveling to and from. Remember, any germs you pick up at home— or in the course of your travels— are hitching a ride to your destination as well.

Let’s work together to keep each other healthy and stop the spread of this terrible virus!

girl kissing her nanny
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Dr. Harvey Karp is a world-renowned pediatrician and child development expert. His celebrated Happiest Baby/Happiest Toddler books and videos have guided millions of parents and are translated into 30 languages. In 2016, Dr. Karp debuted SNOO Smart Sleeper, a new class of responsive infant bed designed to add 1-2 hours to a baby’s sleep, quickly soothe crying and to improve safety by preventing dangerous rolling. SNOO won the National Sleep Foundation Innovation of the Year award as well as 20 other top national and international honors. Medical studies are underway to evaluate SNOO’s potential to reduce postpartum depression, infant sleep death and to improve the care of infants withdrawing from opiates. Dr. Karp is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the USC School of Medicine and a fellow of the AAP. He is an advocate for children’s environmental health and a board member of EWG, whose mission is to protect our nation’s public health and the environment.

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