I have friends who need to fly to different countries in the next days and weeks, and I'd like to help them avoid getting the virus. Please help me figure out how to avoid catching it on the planes.

I'll leave my current thoughts in an answer to this question.

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I think flight attendants (who cycle through flights to lots of countries) will be the main vectors, and you should avoid touching them or things that they touch.

Things to bring:

  • Face mask
  • Lysol wipes for tray table, armrests, etc
  • Mini hand-sanitizer to use after touching things
    • Unclear how to get something small enough to go through security. Perhaps it can be bought in the airport though?
  • Anti-nausea pills to avoid throwing up
  • Water bottle

Things to do:

  • Do pay for a window seat to avoid touching everyone as they walk past you.
  • Do (if you can afford it) pay for an upgraded seat where you're not stuffed in with people.
  • Don't touch anyone on the plane.
  • Don't accept anything from the flight attendants.
  • Don't touch your face. (Men should shave facial hair to help with that.)
  • Don't eat anything that they give you on the plane, and maybe avoid eating at all.
  • Don't get out your laptop or basically anything else you own that you're not happy to throw away straight afterwards e.g. buy cheap headphones to listen to on the flight and then throw them out, cover your phone in copper for the flight, etc.

As soon as you arrive at your destination wash the clothes you're wearing and take a shower.

(People have recommended wearing goggles. I am a bit concerned about freaking out the airline staff and being kicked off the plane for looking like you have a disease, but maybe a sleep mask can do the work here.)

This study suggests some airplane seats expose passengers to significantly more infection risk than others. I'm confused by the writing, but my understanding is that window seats are best.

I would also guess, though I can't tell if the paper is suggesting this, that you're at less risk if you don't use the bathroom, don't have row-mates, and sit where people are least likely to pass you to go to the bathroom. If true, one could potentially reduce risk significantly by buying e.g. three seats next to each other halfway between two bathrooms, limiting water intake before the flight and sitting near the window.

The CDC does not recommend face masks for people who are not currently sick. The reason it twofold - one is that unless you have fit the mask to your face properly, which is bloody difficult to do and even harder to maintain, it just doesn't work. Any tiny gap in the seal sucks air into your breathing space. Two is that even if you can fit it correctly, you have just spent five minutes touching your face, which ups your risk of infecting yourself.

The Lysol wipes is a great idea. Hand sanitizer is only good for so much - they are anti-bacterial and the thing we are fighting now is a virus. If it helps you remember to wash your hands at the earliest possible time, sure.

I hadn't thought about shower immediately, but that's a great idea.