Traveling leads to interstate and international spread of the Coronavirus which is why the CDC highly recommends to postpone travel as much as you can. But let’s face it, after being cooped up in the safety of our homes for months, some of us want to be let free and experience the world again.
So if you HAVE to travel, here are things you need to know about traveling with a mask.
Wear The Right Masks
It’s needless to say that if you’re expecting to travel, you’re going to need a mask. Effective as of February 2, 2021, TSA will require individuals to wear a mask at TSA airport screening checkpoints and throughout the commercial and public transportation systems. Violating this requirement can lead to $250 in fines for first time offenders and up to $1500 for repeat offenders.
But is there a wrong mask to wear when traveling? The answer is yes. We talked about what masks you should wear during a pandemic and there was only one type of mask that we absolutely recommend avoiding: masks with valves. Valves were designed to improve breathability and airflow but essentially render a mask’s protective qualities useless as valves don’t offer any filtration at all. In August 2020, all major US airlines banned masks with valves on flights.
So, what is the right mask to wear during traveling then? The CDC states that masks must cover your mask and your nose so you’re good to go with cloth masks or disposable general use masks. A mask is only as effective as its fit so we’d leave the bandanas at home as they aren’t as effective due to their loose fit. Face Shields are accepted in supplement with an accepted mask but not as a substitution for a mask.
Don’t jeopardize your trip by either not bringing a mask or bringing the wrong one. If you want a travel-ready, reusable and washable mask that has integrated disposable filters, check out our ORÅ’s Nano Mask.
Don’t Wear N95 Respirators
It is known that N95 Respirators are the gold standard for masks and are regarded to offer the best protection against airborne pathogens, but this is another type of mask that we wouldn’t recommend wearing when traveling. Business Insider offers three reasons why:
1. Improper Fit
In order for Healthcare and medical professionals to wear an N95 respirator in a medical setting, they have to get the mask fitted to ensure a tight seal that maximizes the protective qualities of the mask for that person. Unless you work in the healthcare and medical field, you won’t have access to this sort of special fitting thus should you wear an N95, the results will not be as optimized.
2. Discomfort with Extended Wear
N95 Respirators are uncomfortable to wear over an extended period of time especially if not fitted properly. The biggest danger to an uncomfortable mask is that you’re going to want to take it off and at that point, you’d only risk your safety as well as others.
N95 Respirators are in low supply and are quite expensive. Not just anyone can manufacture them due to the extremely long and costly certification process, thus there are only a few manufacturers in the world who can make them in the numbers needed to supply the general population.
As stated above, a clean and washed cloth mask or a disposable mask is sufficient for use when traveling. By no means are we saying that you shouldn’t use an N95 if you have access to one. We just think that N95’s should be reserved for medical and healthcare professionals for whom they are specially fitted for and aren’t ideal for long flights due to the potential improper fitment that leads to discomfort from extended wear.
Bring Extra Masks
Aside from wearing any of the aforementioned appropriate masks above, it’s important to carry more than just one mask especially if the mask you choose as a travel companion is disposable. Better to come prepared with an extra mask should your mask get misplaced, knocked off into the mud by the wind, or licked off your face by a curious giraffe on a safari ride. You never know what may happen.
It’s also a good habit to change out the mask when it gets dirty- we’ll leave that to your discretion to determine when a mask becomes dirty. The longer the flight, the drive, or hike is the more exposed a mask becomes to external particles. Luckily, you came prepared with an extra mask.
In short, traveling without a mask is not at all ideal as it exponentially increases the risk of contracting illness or stops your trip entirely by inhibiting your access to public transportation systems such as airports, train stations, or ferries. Don’t wear masks with valves as they leave you as unprotected as not having a mask. N95’s aren’t ideal for travel as they may not fit properly and cause discomfort after extended use. Pack some extra masks along in preparation for anything and everything that could happen.