Bring a pen when flying or going to the doctor's office
Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

First up…
We’ve known for weeks that coronavirus numbers in the U.S. were going to skyrocket since we haven’t been testing. But that really hit home when I found out last night that two of my friends in the travel industry have now tested positive for COVID-19: Nomadic Matt and Valerie. Matt and Val, I’m wishing you both a speedy recovery. And I’m urging everyone to stay home. I’ve canceled all of my travels and we’re socially isolating for March and April. It’s starting to look like May, too. It’s a crazy world right now, but we will get through it.

Now on to the tip…
As you no doubt know by now, you should avoid flying right now unless it’s absolutely necessary. In fact, while COVID-19 continues to spread, you should limit your contact with people as much as you can. Social distancing, as made clear here, will help “flatten the curve” and lessen the damage wrought by this pandemic.

But if you have to fly (some people do), there are some things to remember. TSA, for example, is now allowing bottles of hand sanitizer up to 12 ounces through security (bottles over 3.4oz need to be screened separately). Bring hand sanitizer, apply it regularly, wash your hands (for 20+ seconds) as often as you can, and don’t touch your face. Consider wiping down your seat with Clorox wipes like Naomi Campbell does, and definitely wipe down your luggage once you’ve arrived home or at your destination. And here’s another tip: If you’re flying internationally, make sure to bring your own pen.

A borrowed or shared pen could be carrying the novel coronavirus. In addition, people are unwilling to share their pens right now for just that reason. If you have to fill out an immigration form and you don’t have your own pen, you won’t be able to simply ask another passenger to borrow one like you used to. Don’t believe me? In a tweet yesterday, one man shared that his daughter “Cleo, flying home to PHX…from Athens, Greece, via London, just had to fill out her Health Declaration Card using eyeliner, because she didn’t have anything else to write with, and nobody was sharing.” Bring a pen and avoid the hassle!

Bring a pen to the doctor’s office, too

It might be a good idea to bring a pen most other places, too, including the doctor’s office if you have to go. As reader Westley wrote to me, “the clipboard pen is one of the filthiest items in your doctor’s office. The story Westley shared notes that “researchers found the clipboard pen has more than 46,000 times more germs than an average toilet seat.” In this RD story, Kristine Arthur, MD, says that she “doesn’t share or borrow pens provided in public places, especially in your doctor’s office. ‘Everyone is touching them, and in a place where people are sick they are even more likely to have bacteria or viruses on them,’ she says. ‘Bring your own pen for filling out forms.'”


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2 Comments On "Bring Your Own Pen When Flying or Going to the Doctor's Office"
  1. Mary Parker|

    My husband and I have used our own pen for years when signing receipts in stores, restaurants etc. I learned this in my nursing, and told my nursing students and former staff to do the same. 👍stay healthy everyone.

  2. Susan M|

    I wonder if Finger Cots, that normally can be purchased at drug store, would work as a barrier to germs on the disgustingly dirty “touch screens “ at the airport ( and many other places) ? I carry pens with the soft tip, to use when signing credit card screens. I am never certain which screens don’t sense that rubber tip.

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