COVID-19: How to make your car safe after exposure and other tips for safe travel

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We’ve all been staying home more this year, but there are times when traveling is important. When you do need to travel, be sure to always use the correct car seat, booster seat, or seat belt, every time, every ride. And right now, preventing the spread of COVID-19 should also be an important part of your travel routine.

How to clean car seats and seatbelts

The American Academy of Pediatrics gives these tips:

  • Car seats may be cleaned but should never be disinfected. While wipes and bleach work great for most surfaces, using a disinfecting chemical on a car seat harness or seat belt can cause damage to the webbing causing the car seat or seat belt to fail in the event of a crash.
  • Most car seats, boosters and seat belts can be cleaned with a mild soap and water and some have machine washable covers. Read your car seat owner’s manual for the proper cleaning instructions for that seat. Always air dry the harness straps.
  • You can also contact the manufacturer for help if you can’t find your car seat manual.

How to make your car seat or vehicle safe after exposure to COVID-19

If your child or any other person tests positive or has been exposed to COVID-19 and has been in the car, take the following steps:

  • Clean and disinfect the spot where that person rode including the seats, door handles, window and lock buttons, steering wheel, gearshift, and other hard surfaces within six feet of where they were.
  • Remove the car seats and wash them according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Or you can place them out of reach or in a tightly sealed plastic bag for a few days. Wear gloves, a mask, and eye protection while handling the car seats, and wash your hands thoroughly afterward. After a few days, you can use the car seats safely again. 
  • Remember: seat belts should not be disinfected with harsh chemicals. If possible, do not use that seating position for a few days. Weather permitting, parking in the sun and airing out the vehicle with the windows open may help get rid of the virus more quickly. After a few days, you can clean the seat belt with mild soap and water and use it again.
  • To prevent the spread of COVID-19, try to limit passengers in your car to those who live in your household.
  • If your child always rides in the same seat, and no one shows signs of COVID-19, routine cleaning (mild soap and water) is acceptable.

What to expect from schools, childcare, and others

Programs should have written policies explaining how they will prevent infection while they transport children. They also should have a plan for how they will make the vehicle safe if a passenger tests positive or is exposed to COVID-19. Here are some things to look for:

  • They should have a detailed seating plan so that the same child always uses the same seat, car seat, or harness device and no other child uses it.
  • Buses should load from back to front and unload from front to back.
  • If a child is positive or shows signs of the virus, the car seat and seating position should be taken out of service for a few days and thoroughly cleaned before using again.

How to stay safe on public transportation

Since more people will be riding in a small area, it may be safer to walk while COVID-19 is spreading. When you do ride a train, bus, or plane, practice physical distancing as much as possible, wear cloth face coverings, and use hand sanitizer frequently. When you arrive home, wash your hands thoroughly and consider changing into clean clothes.

Additional Resources

If you have car seat questions or would like to make an appointment to get your car seat checked, call 801-662-6583. Primary Children's Hospital is now offering virtual appointments as well as socially distanced onsite checks.