The best expert-approved face masks to wear on long flights: KN95s and more

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It’s been nearly 15 months since the Coronavirus pandemic turned our worlds upside down. Luckily with the COVID-19 vaccine rollout and restrictions slowly being lifted around the country, things may be back to normal sooner than we think.

While it’s unlikely things will completely go back to our pre-pandemic society, many people are starting to do things they haven’t done in a while — like traveling.

But wearing masks while flying is still recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, despite the easing of other precautions.

In an effort to help you travel comfortably and safely, The Post spoke with Dr. Karen Jubanyik, associate professor of Emergency Medicine at Yale University School of Medicine. 

“Overall, the best mask to wear on a long flight is one that you can put on, not touch, and leave on for the entire flight,” Jubanyik said. “You can test different masks before your actual day of travel to make sure that you can wear it for a prolonged period of time. Try taking a jog as if running to catch a short connection [or wearing] it indoors for a few hours.”

N95 & KN95 Masks

Jubanyik recommends KN95 and N95 masks to travelers particularly if they’re not fully vaccinated, immunocompromised (meaning that the vaccination might not be as effective) or in close contact with someone who is. 

Luckily, WellBefore — a marketplace that sells medical products at budget-friendly prices — has plenty of N95 and KN95 masks that are both reputable and effective.

Note: The disadvantage of both N95 and KN95 masks is that they can be itchy, cause breakouts (like maskne), and have decreased breathability while wearing them, especially if you are running to catch a flight. Facial hair may also make the fit of these masks difficult. 

WellBefore Harley L-188 N95 Folding Mask – NIOSH Approved Mask, $2.49 each

Jubanyik recommends travelers wear a NIOSH-compliant properly-fitted disposable N95 respirator mask if they’ll be on a long flight. “They offer the most protection and do come in universal-sized models, meaning that one size fits (almost) all. However, other N95 masks come in sizes and these must be fit-tested to the individual, and a poorly-fitting N95 is worse protection than other options.”

WellBefore KN95 Individually Wrapped Mask, $2+ each

Jubanyik also mentioned KN95 masks but stressed the importance of making sure the one you pick up is from a reputable retailer.

Double Masking While Traveling

If you you’re not fully vaccinated or immunocompromised and don’t want to wear a N95 or KN95 mask but want to prevent yourself from getting COVID-19 while traveling, Jubanyik recommends you consider double masking with a surgical mask and a cloth mask.

“Surgical masks (disposable) should fit well, using the bendable nosepiece, and tying a knot at the ear loops helps make it fit close to the face. Surgical masks should be discarded and replaced if they get wet,” said Jubanyik.

“The best masks are made of multiple layers and can be tested by holding up to the light to see how much light shines through,” Jubanyik explained. “Cloth masks to wear on top of surgical mask should also be adjustable, comfortable and made up of multiple layers. If you wear glasses and your glasses fog up, that is an indication that your mask(s) is not fitting well over the nose.”

Reusable Masks

Alternatively, if you are fully vaccinated and low risk, you can also choose to wear a single mask while traveling.

“The mask should be well-fitted and be composed of multiple layers, or include the ability to add a filter,” Jubanyik said.

“Do not wear a gaiter, as these have been shown to offer inadequate protection to you and others around you, as the fit is not usually adequate and the material is often too thin to offer sufficient protection to prevent virus particles from escaping,” Jubanyik said. “In addition, do not wear a mask with a valve or an exhalation vent.  A good cloth mask has a wire over the nose and has adjustable ear pieces.”

Ahead, find Jubanyik’s favorite reusable masks for traveling and long wear.

Under Armour Sportsmask, $30 each or 2 for $50

Jubanyik like this Under Armour mask for those with really small or very large faces since it comes in five different sizes, ranging from extra-small to extra-extra-large.

“It was designed for exercising, has some water-resistance, is made of three layers, and does not lie tight across the entire face (but should fit snugly around the sides),” Jubanyik said. “It [also] has a nose wire and ear loops.”

Athleta Everyday Non Medical Face Masks Five Pack, $7, original price: $30

“Athleta masks come in great color packs and match their athleisure wear. The material is very breathable, the soft-knit ear loops are adjustable [and] they have a nose wire and pleated fabric to allow adjustments for bigger and smaller faces,” Jubanyik said. “They also make a kids’ version.”

FIGS FIONx Woven Adjustable Mask, $8

Figs, which makes high quality scrub uniforms, also makes great masks that not only match their scrubs but are great for traveling, too.

“This particular model is made of woven, machine-washable fabric, with a soft inner lining and a slot for replaceable filters,” Jubanyik said. “They are really comfortable and allow easy breathability.”

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