Travel Masks – Do They Work?

Women Wearing Face Masks

People often ask are travel masks necessary?

  • If a mask is needed (in a place of many reported infections) an N95 respirator (not easy to breath through) is recommended
  • Surgical masks are not ironclad, however they do capture airborne droplets, a major route of transmission
  • Masks are ineffective if there are gaps between skin and mask
  • The common surgical mask is mostly needed by facilities using them for many patients
  • If you are sick, then a mask will help protect others around you

Proper Mask Etiquette:

So do the paper surgical masks work as good protection while travelling?  …yes and no.  They require proper use and most people do not even position them correctly.

The strings need to be tied so that the top one is above the ears and the bottom one is tied behind the base of the skull, covering nose, mouth, and leaving no gaps besides your mouth.  If your mask has loops, then loop them around your ears, as snug as possible to your face.

Pinch the metal bridge at the top so that it takes the shape of your nose.

Replace the mask once it feels soiled or moist.  At this point the mask has stopped preventing the transmission of droplets because you are inhaling them through the mask.  Wash your hands after disposing of the mask appropriately.

Product: Surgical Face Mask 

Currently unavailable on






The N95 Respirator:

I should mention that the CDC has this posted about the N95 Respirator:

N95 Respirators Not for Use by the Public

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not recommend that the general public wear N95 respirators to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including coronavirus (COVID-19). The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. However, as a reminder, CDC always recommends everyday preventive actions, such as hand washing, to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases.

For the general American public, there is no added health benefit to wear a respiratory protective device (such as an N95 respirator), and the immediate health risk from COVID-19 is considered low.

The CDC and most governmental entities are very concerned that the healthcare industry has adequate supplies of these pieces of vital personal protection equipment because they are the ones who will be coming into contact with COVID-19 on a regular basis.  This makes a lot of sense, so don’t necessarily rush out and buy an N95 respirator just for your trip to the grocery store, you’d probably be better off just increasing the use of alcohol based hand sanitizer or washing your hands with soapy water for 10 full seconds on a more frequent basis.

However, if you are about to travel or put yourself into a high-risk area for any reason, then the N95 Respirator might make sense.  The most common ones are the ones made by 3M, but even if you go to Amazon now, they will not be available for a few more months – until July 2020.

Product: N95 Respirator by 3M

Price: $42.66

Cheapest place to buy:

The N95 Repirator is made to achieve a very close fit, and will block 95% of very small test particles.  This does not completely eliminate risk of illness.  These masks are single use – and should also be thrown away after they become soiled or too damp to provide protection (usually 8 hours from what I’ve read).




Common sense tips: Both the surgical mask and the N95 mask are meant to be worn once, not shared or reused. So please don’t share your masks 😉

The best way to stay healthy:

Wash your hands, get plenty of sleep, eat fruits and vegetables and don’t stress.

Studies consistently show that the more rested you are, the healthier your immune system.  So slow down and make sure you are getting good sleep, which may require you to exercise during the day, so that’s good.  Eat healthier, with fruits and vegetables as the highest priority and if you find yourself worrying too much about a vacation, then it certainly wouldn’t be worth it, so hold off until the thought of travel makes you excited and not worried about a new disease.

It’s still early on with Covid-19 and that’s part of the stress, and if thoughts of travel are worrying then I recommend not to travel.  Your vacation should be an experience that washes stress out of your system and allows you to experience the world with a fresh perspective.  With rising levels of uncertainty regarding the virus, that might not be possible.

If you are going to travel right now, be sure to look at trip insurance for both health and financial protection in case your trip arrangements need to be changed.

What do you think about masks and travel?  Have you had any experience with face masks while travel or do you have an opinion on traveling right now?  Let us know in the comments!

Saludos, John

1 thought on “Travel Masks – Do They Work?”

  1. Hi John,

    Medical authorities in different countries have different recommendations WRT mask wearing.

    Here in Hong Kong the recommendation (strong!) is to wear masks and it’s also expected as part of social etiquette. There are notices in the entrance lobby of public buildings, accessing ferries, subways, busses, etc asking people to be considerate and wear a mask.

    However, many doctors in western countries have been saying that a mask is of little value unless it has an air-tight fit and is changed regularly (every 30 minutes for the cheaper paper-based masks, because they become damp from your breath which makes them completely useless)

    My own view is that if they provide even a small benefit it’s worth wearing them, especially if you’re on public transport or in a busy location. And, of course, in countries where it is expected social etiquette they should be worn.

    Stay safe – the virus is spreading rapidly in the US now.



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