Traveling with PPE in the COVID-19 Era
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) includes protective gear such as clothing, gloves, helmets, face shields, goggles, face masks, and more designed to protect against injury or the spread of infection and disease. PPE was mainly required for healthcare personnel to prevent the spread of germs in a hospital. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, PPE is now especially necessary for people who are traveling by either plane, train, car, or bus. While the pandemic has significantly decreased traveling, it has become apparent that traveling is still essential and is beginning to recover as borders reopen. Since this is the case, it is important when traveling in any capacity that PPE is brought along and properly utilized.
The equipment below is a basic PPE kit every passenger should be traveling with on a plane, train, car, or bus:
- Multiple face masks (disposable or reusable)
- Disposable gloves (latex or rubber)
- Hand sanitizer
- Disinfectant wipes
- Long sleeve shirts or jackets and long pants
Multiple face masks are ideal because it is recommended that one should clean their mask after every use. If you are traveling for a long amount of time or will be using several modes of transportation to get to your destination, it is a good idea to bring several masks to ensure you are wearing a clean one at all times. If it is a disposable mask, then you can simply toss it out after one use and switch it out. If it is a reusable mask, then you can rotate face masks until you have a chance to wash it. Avoid touching your mask while wearing it, and wash your hands before and after removing your mask.
Washing your hands often with soap is the most effective way to prevent the spread of germs when coming in contact with any potentially unclean surface. If you are traveling, disposable gloves are also important to avoid touching dirty surfaces. Washing your hands is still essential and gloves are not considered a replacement for this but rather additional protection on top of hand washing. The best medical gloves are made from latex or rubber and ones that are thick enough to not get torn and long enough to cover down to the wrist. It is important to dispose of these gloves after one use and not attempt to wash or disinfect them. Also, it is important to remove the gloves properly by pulling from the wrist and turning them inside out to avoid contact with the outside part of the glove and your skin. The gloves will still come in contact with surfaces one touches so it is also important to avoid touching the face to prevent contamination, otherwise they will essentially be useless in terms of protection.
Hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol is necessary when traveling, and when one cannot always wash their hands. Just like the disposable gloves, this is additional protection and by no means an excuse to skip hand washing. Traveling on a plane, bus, train, or car may not always allow for consistent hand washing so hand sanitizer is important to have around. Hand sanitizers will kill viruses, but they do not remove all the dirt and potential contaminants you can touch throughout the day, so it is still important to avoid touching your face at all times.
Disinfectant wipes are great for traveling because most likely you will be in a public setting that many other people come through. Bathrooms, seats, seat belts, tables, handles, etc. on planes, buses, or trains are especially at risk of being contaminated by many people, and the virus can potentially live for days on various surfaces. Sanitizing these surfaces with wipes before you touch them decreases the risk of coming in contact with germs. Disinfectant wipes can kill 99.9 percent of germs that can live on surfaces for up to 48 hours, and 99.9 percent of viruses and bacteria. Wipes are compact and easy to travel with making it a convenient PPE to always have when traveling.
Wearing clothes that cover as much skin as possible is another way to protect against touching contaminated surfaces. One may open a door or hold a handrail with their hands and may simply forget to disinfect the surfaces first or wash their hands immediately after, and may touch their face after doing so. This obviously increases the risk of contracting COVID-19 that may be living on public transportation surfaces. Wearing long sleeves or pants can help prevent bare skin contact with dirty surfaces. It is recommended after you travel, you wash your clothes and shower immediately to remove any germs you may have picked up.
Traveling during the COVID-19 pandemic is a new phenomenon that everyone is still trying to adjust to. At the moment, it is recommended to only travel when necessary and to not travel if you are experiencing symptoms or feel unwell. With the borders reopening, however, travel is beginning to increase once again so it is important to take steps to protect yourself and others from spreading COVID-19. A passenger PPE kit is necessary for ensuring the safest travel experience. The PPE’s discussed above are not very effective on their own but used together they allow a very good chance of preventing contact with the virus. It is safe to say traveling will no longer look like the pre-COVID-19 era so travelers will need to adopt a safe, disinfectant routine that includes basic protective equipment that protects them and those around them. It is by no means a guarantee, but it is the necessary steps we all need to take during these times. From now on, ensure PPE is part of your pre-departure checklist when traveling in any capacity.