Wear a PPE Face Covering when Travelling

Should You Wear a PPE Face Covering when Travelling?

The ongoing pandemic has made face coverings a common sight, especially while travelling. But is it necessary to wear a medical-grade PPE (personal protective equipment) mask rather than a standard cloth or disposable face covering? There are several important factors to consider before deciding. We’ll take a closer look at them in this article to help you make an informed decision on whether a PPE face covering is right for you.

Comfort and Breathability

PPE masks like N95s and FFP3s are designed for maximum filtration, not comfort. They fit very snugly against your face to seal in particles, which can feel stuffy, hot and restrictive over long periods of wear. A standard cloth or disposable mask is much more breathable and comfortable for the average traveller.

Level of Protection Needed

PPE masks offer the highest level of particle filtration, blocking 95% or more of tiny airborne particles when properly fitted. Standard cloth or disposable masks are less effective but still provide a good barrier against respiratory droplets. For most travel situations, like flights, trains, or buses, where others are masked, a standard covering gives sufficient protection against viruses. PPE masks provide marginally better filtration but are likely overkill for lower-risk travel.

Conserving Supplies

PPE masks are essential protective equipment for healthcare workers in high-risk environments. Surgical masks and N95/FFP3 respirators are designed for single use when treating infectious diseases before disposal. Wearing this vital medical PPE unnecessarily could limit supplies and availability for doctors, nurses and other frontline staff who rely on them every day. Basic reusable cloth face coverings are adequate and appropriate for community use.

Cost Considerations

As regulated medical devices, PPE masks like N95 respirators typically cost far more than reusable fabric masks, often 5 to 10 times the price. For a single trip, the extra expense of PPE would likely outweigh the small incremental benefit over a regular face covering. However, for frequent travellers or those at very high Covid risk, the investment in PPE may be justified for added protection.

Airline Face Covering Policies

Some major airlines now have mandatory mask policies allowing only basic cloth or disposable face coverings, not medical-grade PPE. This aims to preserve essential supplies for healthcare settings. Before travelling, always check your airline’s latest face mask policy. You may not be permitted to fly if wearing certain types of PPE mask. Some airlines provide PPE for staff only.

Cultural Sensitivity

In some countries and cultures, medical masks may be stigmatised as symbols of illness. Wearing PPE masks when not necessary could cause offence or anxiety. Standard cloth face coverings are more culturally neutral.

In Summary

For most travellers, PPE masks are excessive and offer little real advantage over standard cloth or disposable masks. They can also be costly, uncomfortable and prohibited under some airline policies. However, PPE masks may benefit those at very high Covid risk or those who travel frequently. Consider your specific situation and check current travel guidelines, but for most people, a reusable fabric face covering is the responsible choice.

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