Should you fly yet? An epidemiologist and an exposure scientist walk you through the decision process

We don’t know about you, but we’re ready to travel. And that typically means flying.

We have been thinking through this issue as moms and as an exposure scientist and infectious disease epidemiologist. While we’ve decided personally that we’re not going to fly right now, we will walk you through our thought process on what to consider and how to minimize your risks.

Why the fear of flying?

The primary concern with flying—or traveling by bus or train—is sitting within six feet of an infected person. Remember: Even asymptomatic people can transmit. Your risk of infection directly corresponds to your dose of exposure, which is determined by your duration of time exposed and the amount of virus-contaminated droplets in the air.

A secondary concern is contact with contaminated surfaces. When an infected person contaminates a shared armrest, airport restroom handle, seat tray or other item, the virus can survive for hours though it degrades over time. If you touch that surface and then touch your mouth or nose, you put yourself at risk of infection.

Before you book, think

While there is no way to make air travel 100% safe, there are ways to make it safer. It’s important to think through the particulars for each trip.

One approach to your decision-making is to use what occupational health experts call the hierarchy of controls. This approach does two things. It focuses on strategies to control exposures close to the source. Second, it minimizes how much you have to rely on individual human behavior to control exposure. It’s important to remember you may be infectious and everyone around you may also be infectious.

The best way to control exposure is to eliminate the hazard. Since we cannot eliminate the new coronavirus, ask yourself if you can eliminate the trip. Think extra hard if you are older or have preexisting conditions, or if you are going to visit someone in that position.

If you are healthy and those you visit are healthy, think about ways to substitute the hazard. Is it possible to drive? This would allow you to have more control over minimizing your exposures, particularly if the distance is less than a day of travel.

You’re going, now what?

If you choose to fly, check out airlines’ policies on seating and boarding. Some are minimizing capacity and spacing passengers by not using middle seats and having empty rows. Others are boarding from the back of the plane. Some that were criticized for filling their planes to capacity have announced plans to allow customers to cancel their flights if the flight goes over 70% passenger seating capacity.

Federal and state guidance are changing constantly, so make sure you look up the most recent guidance from government agencies and the airlines and airport you are using for additional advice, and current policies or restrictions.

While this may sound counterintuitive, consider booking multiple, shorter flights. This will decrease the likelihood of having to use the lavatory and the duration of exposure to an infectious person on the plane.

After you book, select a window seat if possible. If you consider the six-foot radius circle around you, having a wall on one side would directly reduce the number of people you are exposed to during the flight in half, not to mention all the people going up and down the aisle.

Also, check out your airline to see their engineering controls that are designed or put into practice to isolate hazards. These include ventilation systems, on-board barriers and electrostatic disinfectant sprays on flights.

When the ventilation system on planes is operating, planes have a very high ratio of outside fresh air to recirculated air – about 10 times higher than most commercial buildings. Plus, most planes’ ventilation systems have HEPA filters. These are at least 99.9% effective at removing particles that are 0.3 microns in diameter and more efficient at removing both smaller and larger particles.

How to be safe from shuttle to seat

From checking in, to going through security to boarding, you will be touching many surfaces. To minimize risk:

Bring hand wipes to disinfect surfaces such as your seat belt and your personal belongings, like your passport. If you cannot find hand wipes, bring a small washcloth soaked in a bleach solution in a zip bag. This would probably freak TSA out less than your personal spray bottle, and viruses are not likely to grow on a cloth with a bleach solution. But remember: More bleach is not better and can be unsafe. You only need one tablespoon in four cups of water to be effective.

Bring plastic zip bags for personal items that others may handle, such as your ID. Bring extra bags so you can put these things in a new bag after you get the chance to disinfect them.

Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer as often as you can. While soap and water is most effective, hand sanitizer is helpful after you wash to get any parts you may have missed.

Once you get to your window seat, stay put.

Wear a mask. If you already have an N95 respirator, consider using it but others can also provide protection. We do not recommend purchasing N95 until health care workers have an adequate supply. Technically, it should also be tested to make sure you have a good fit. We do not recommend the use of gloves, as that can lead to a false sense of security and has been associated with reduced hand hygiene practices.

If you are thinking about flying with kids, there are special considerations. Getting a young child to adhere to wearing a mask and maintaining good hygiene behaviors at home is hard enough; it may be impossible to do so when flying. Children under 2 should not wear a mask.

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Alec and Hilaria Baldwin's Sweetest Moments With Their Kids: Family Album

The Baldwinitos! Alec Baldwin and Hilaria Baldwin love life with their four little ones.

The couple wed in June 2012 in New York City and welcomed their first child, a baby girl, to the world the following year.

“We are overjoyed to announce the birth of our daughter Carmen Gabriela,” the Living Clearly Method author tweeted in August 2013. “She is absolutely perfect.”

Before the little one’s 2nd birthday, the “Mom Brain” podcast cohost announced that she was expecting baby No. 2 with the Saturday Night Live alum. (The actor previously welcomed his daughter Ireland Baldwin with his then-wife, Kim Basinger, in 1995).

The fitness guru shared the news with her yoga posture of the day — tadasana. The Spain native posed with her shirt pulled up at the beach while Alec knelt in the sand, holding Carmen. The toddler kissed her mom’s bare stomach in the January 2015 Instagram upload.

Rafael arrived five months later, followed by Leonardo and Romeo in September 2016 and May 2018, respectively.

Hilaria and the Emmy winner have been vocal about their plans for baby No. 5, but suffered two pregnancy losses within one year.

“We are so lucky with our 4 healthy babies — and we will never lose sight of this,” the Yoga Vida cofounder captioned her Instagram announcement following the second in November 2019. “I told [Carmen] that this baby isn’t going to come after all, but we will try very hard to give her a little sister another time.”

With such a big brood at home, the former yoga instructor has learned how to settle conflicts between her kids. “They do fight, obviously,” Hilaria told Us Weekly exclusively in March 2020. “I just have a big rule that we’re a good team. We have that written on our wedding rings in Spanish that we’re a good team. Anytime there is conflict, you’re never allowed to hurt anyone and you have to use your words. You can’t use mean words.”

Keep scrolling to see her and Alec’s best moments with their big brood, from Halloween costumes to beach trips.

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These Fruits and Veggies Could Last Months When Stored The Right Way

Any smart shopper would want their fresh produce to last as long as possible. If it doesn’t go bad fast, it means you can save more money because fresh fruits and vegetables can be pretty expensive. Having to throw away rotten ones and restock again can hurt your food budget and is also wasteful.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, around 94% of food thrown away end up in landfills. This could be lessened just by knowing the right way to purchase, store, and prepare your fruits and vegetables so they will last for as long as possible. But you can also opt to stock up on these products that could last for longer than you would expect, as long as you store and use them correctly.

Potatoes

It’s ideal to store potatoes in 40 degrees Fahrenheit. These veggies don’t like light, so the perfect storage conditions for potatoes is in the basement or a cellar. Light can also make them turn green.

Storing potatoes in this condition keeps them from rotting for around 2 to 4 months. However, keep them away from apples and onions as both of these food items emit gases that could make potatoes ripen faster.

Cabbage

Although cabbage tastes best when it’s fresh, it can also last for up to 2 months if you plan to stock up on it. However, it should be placed inside the fridge and wrapped in plastic. Since cabbages can last longer than lettuce or other delicate leafy greens, it can be used as a stand-in as an ingredient of your salads. Most greens that are frequently used in salads wilt in a matter of days because of their high water content.

Cabbages can be alternatives to salad greens that wilt quickly.

Apples

According to the University of Maine, no other tree fruit could last longer than apples and pears. Under the right conditions, these could last up to 4 months. Apples could thrive in a storage temperature of around 32 degrees Fahrenheit, except for the Honeycrisp variant that should be stored at 36 degrees Fahrenheit because it tends to get a chilling injury.

Among your bunch of apples, consume the largest one first since these are usually the first ones to go bad. Store apples inside a plastic bag and stow it inside the fruit crisper drawer of your refrigerator to prolong it for weeks. Just make sure that you keep them away from veggies. Other vegetables ripen faster when exposed to ethylene gas, which apples emit.

Beets

Beets can be used in a variety of ways. You can slice them up for salads or snack on baked beet chips. It’s a good thing that these veggies can last between 2 to 4 months in your refrigerator if stored properly. If there are still greens attached to the beets, make sure to remove them. After that, place it in a perforated plastic bag and inside the vegetable crisper.

Garlic

These kitchen staples can last the longest when stored at around 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit. These should be okay to store inside a dark kitchen cabinet.

A whole bulb could last for months stored inside a paper bag in the fridge. However, all your other food items might taste like garlic if you store them with already cut ones. Once you refrigerate the garlic bulb, you should keep it inside until you are about to use it. Days after it has been taken out from the cold and into room temperature, it will start sprouting.

You should only store unopened bulbs inside the fridge and not sliced ones if you don’t want other food items to acquire a garlicky taste.

Carrots

Carrots give off plenty of moisture, so you have to keep them dry if you intend to use it much later. This is because the moisture makes the carrots rot quicker. If they came in a plastic bag when you bought them from the grocery store, just put in a paper towel inside so it can absorb any moisture from the carrots. Once the paper towel gets saturated, replace it with a new one so you can keep your carrots fresh for up to a few months.

Onions

Onions can last up to a year as long as these are stored in a dry area with a temperature between 30 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit. If you don’t have the proper storage place, just keep it in mesh bags, like the ones used to pack onions sold by the grocery stores. If you store them inside a dark cabinet, they can last to a month or even longer.

Winter Radish

The white-colored daikon variety you see in your local grocery store is more pungent than the red ones you use for spring salads. So, if you’re looking for a healthy supply of fresh produce, don’t store too many of these. Storage for winter radishes is similar to that of carrots. After you remove the greens, place the radishes inside a plastic bag with a paper towel to absorb moisture. That way, these could last for about a month.

You can use shredded or thinly shaved winter radish for your slaw or salad.

Winter Squash

Varieties of winter squash, including pumpkins and butternut squash, can last around 2 to 6 months if stored inside a dark cabinet. Just make sure that you arrange them in a single layer so that air can circulate better. Stocking up on these versatile vegetables is a smart choice since these are packed with nutrients and can be used in a number of recipes.

Frozen Vegetables

Aside from your fresh produce, also hit the frozen foods aisle and stock up on a couple of packs of frozen vegetables. It may be healthier than fresh asparagus, spinach, peas, and other veggies with a short shelf life as these were frozen just hours after being harvested. Plus, you don’t have to worry too much about expiration as long as you keep it inside your freezer.

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Celebs and Their Look-Alike Kids

Celebrities and Their Lookalike Kids

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree! These celebrity parents, like Cindy Crawford, Jennifer Garner, and Tom Hanks, all share striking similarities — and features! — with their cute kids. Click through to see these stars (and more!) and their look-alike children!

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Lymphatic vessels in mice and humans: Alike yet different

In an international collaboration, researchers from Uppsala University have mapped the lymph node lymphatic vessels in mice and humans down to the level of individual cells. The results may eventually help scientists to discover new methods for strengthening the immune system against viruses and cancer. Their work has been published in the journal Frontiers of Cardiovascular Research.

The unique microenvironment of the lymph nodes plays an important role in maintaining an efficient immune system. When we have an infection, the lymph nodes swell and release activated white blood cells into the body through the lymphatic vessels. It is important to understand how these vessels work if we are to develop new drugs to improve the immune system; for example, new vaccines.

Previous research has shown that the specialized cells that make the lymphatic vessels, known as lymphatic endothelial cells, both communicate with white blood cells and actively assist in regulating the immune system. Until now, however, researchers have only understood the importance of a few of the genes that control the versatility of these cells.

Our immune system is involved in a range of different diseases, including chronic inflammatory diseases such as psoriasis, atherosclerosis and cancer. In order to study the role of the immune system in disease mechanisms, many scientists use model systems, including mice.

“By using model systems, we researchers can test the function of various genes and evaluate treatment strategies, all of which provides us with valuable knowledge. However, in order to translate findings from mouse models to humans we need a better understanding of the similarities and differences between the signaling pathways and genes that control cell function in the different species,” explains Maria Ulvmar, a researcher who led the study at Uppsala University’s Department of Immunology, Genetics and Pathology.

The research teams that conducted the study analyzed the activity of genes in individual cells in mice and humans. Based on the gene activity profiles, they were able to demonstrate that both species have five distinct and similar groups of lymphatic endothelial cells in the lymph nodes, two of which were previously unknown. This discovery, complements previous published analysis of the lymphatic vessels in the lymph nodes and will help the scientific understanding of how immune cells enter and leave the lymph nodes and how their activity is regulated.

The results support the proposition that basic vessel functionality is the same in mice and humans. At the same time, researchers noted crucial differences in gene activity between the two species. This discovery is important for future research.

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