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What Happens If You Sleep with a Face Mask on the Plane?

What Happens If You Sleep with a Face Mask on the Plane?

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has dramatically changed the world of travel. After a prolonged cut back on air travel, Canadians are flying to different destinations again - but of course, with safety precautions and face masks in place.

As the entire world waits for the COVID-19 vaccine, travellers are pondering on every scenario and factors as they hit the skies. People are worried about maintaining proper distance and navigating high-touch areas throughout their journey. Wearing a mask during the entire flight duration is a concern for many. More than that, passengers aboard intercontinental flights are bothered about sleeping with a face mask on the plane.

You might also ask whether it’s safe to get on that plane while the pandemic is still on a rage. Or what is the risk of getting coronavirus while on the plane?

Travelling, spending time in airports and getting on a plane is one of the riskiest things one can do during this global crisis.  People around the airport and passengers with the flu can easily spread their illness to others. There’s a huge chance of bumping into each other and the six-foot distance would be difficult to keep.

But sometimes, it isn't possible to avoid air travel even in this thick COVID-19 pandemic. So if you have to travel for urgent and essential reasons, understand the risks, and take measures to stay safe.

Wearing a mask in airports and on board flights has been a federal requirement since April 2000. The Government of Canada is requiring travellers to wear a non-medical mask or face covering that will protect their nose and mouth properly. Especially now that cases in Canada reach almost 300,000 and hospitalizations are at an all-time high.


Sleeping on the Plane

Sleeping for long periods with a mask on has probable effects on the body. But when you sleep or take a quick nap, your body recovers - which is good for your overall health and immune system. A strong immune system is essential in fighting the deadly coronavirus. Even when you're sleeping, your body is still working to fight illnesses.

If you're on a long-haul journey and you need to sleep - don’t be afraid to do so. Just take more precautions with you. Sleeping with a face mask while you’re dozing off can give you protection when someone around you accidentally coughs or sneezes. It will lessen your risk of getting COVID-19 on the plane.

Don't worry about the aircraft air too. Most, if not all modern carriers have advanced High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) air filters. These filters remove impurities in the air and are as powerful as the ones used in hospitals. The virus won’t easily spread on the aircraft’s ventilation system, but it can linger on hard surfaces.

The plane is a more controlled environment. The risk of contacting COVID-10 while on the plane is lower compared to when you’re in the building, the supermarket, or commuter train. Based on what the WHO shares “there is little risk of communicable disease transmission in an aircraft,” with its high-efficiency air filter.

The best way to keep yourself and others protected while flying is to wear a face mask at all times - even when you need to sleep. You need to catch your rest especially when you have to travel across one or more time zones.

While it's tough to wear face masks the whole time, it’s a must. You’ll have peace of mind knowing that you have taken extra measures to keep yourself healthy and protected while onboard.

A study also found that the transmission risk of COVID-19 during airline flights is low and can be lessened through a combination of infection control measures - that is through face coverings and taking every safety step possible.

N95 Mask When Sleeping on the Plane

Most airlines mandate the use of face coverings of their staff, crews, and passengers for protection against COVID-19. The kind of face mask that one will use in an airplane – and when sleeping - can make a huge difference.

The much-touted N95 mask, regarded as the gold standard in the healthcare setting, filters out at least 95 percent of airborne virus particles. Its exhalation valves allow users to breathe more easily. However, this mask creates some flaws when used outside the health setting.

People's take on N95 masks also varies. Some experts, an ISU professor, and a biomath expert recommend this type of mask for air travel.

But the probability that breathing through N95 mask materials shows to impede gaseous exchange. Stanford engineers estimate that standard N95 masks reduce oxygen intake by anywhere from 5 to 20 percent. These probable effects aren't good even for a healthy person.

As such, most airlines advised passengers that any mask with exhalation valves or vents is not acceptable. According to the requirements outlined by Transport Canada, "masks with exhalation valve, bandanas, and scarves no longer qualify as acceptable face coverings."

While masks can cause dizziness, light-headedness, and feelings of breathlessness - and could even be life-threatening for those with respiratory complications - travelling without one is more deadly.

Since not all masks are created equal, you must discern which one you will use on your next flight, especially as the holiday travel season approaches. As such, it's necessary to wear an effective mask and purchase one from a reliable source.

Before you bring that N95 mask on the plane, think twice. It might not be as effective as what other people think. It would always be a wise decision to use a face covering - a disposable or cloth mask – that is highly recommended by the Federal Government and according to requirements outlined by Transport Canada.

 When travelling by air, it's vital to know what is accepted as an effective face covering. This way, you'll have peace of mind knowing that travelling by air will still give you the safe and healthy experience possible.

sleeping on the plane

Staying Safe While Flying     

Travelling increases your chance of being exposed to COVID-19. It's critical to take steps to protect yourself and others. When you travel, the risk of getting and spreading COVID-19 could increase, but don’t be worried that you’ll catch COVID while on the plane.

More than staying on the plane and sleeping with a face mask on, you need to consider all the factors such as waiting in security lines, hailing a cab to/from the airport, coming in contact with people at several instances, and surfaces on multiple touch points, etc.

If you need to travel at this uncertain time, do it safely. Protective measures will help keep you safe on your journey. You can work on lessening your chances of catching the virus and getting sick when travelling on planes.

Here are things to consider:

  1. Face masks are the key tool in preventing the spread of infection.
  2. Before you travel, it's better to take adequate rest so you can adjust your sleep routine accordingly.
  3. Anticipate your travel needs. Bring an extra mask; pack a hand sanitizer gel with you, and a medicine kit.
  4. When onboard, relax as much as possible. Have a stress-free trip to lessen your chance of getting an illness.
  5. Always wash your hands properly. When you need to take off your mask when you eat or drink, prioritize your hand hygiene.
  6. Take extra precaution. Bring disinfecting wipes with you on your next flight. Wipe your seat cover, tray table, armrest, seat-back pocket, headrest, seat-back screen, overhead air vent, in-flight entertainment screen, and window shade.
  7. Airplane lavatories are high-contact areas. Should using the lavatory be necessary especially if you're on a long flight, keep your hygiene in check.
  8. After your travel, consider self-isolating to keep others safe.

The best way to stay healthy as you travel by plane is to board healthy. This means getting plenty of sleep and staying hydrated. Adequate sleep strengthens your immune system. Hydrating well keeps your respiratory tract moist. This lessens your susceptibility to infections.

Air Travel with Face Masks On

As people take the skies again, wearing a face covering for a prolonged period is an important part of the journey.

Make sure you have the right and acceptable mask to fly like a reusable face mask.  There are face coverings like masks with exhalation valves, bandanas, and scarves, that aren't effective in protecting against COVID-10.

According to the Government of Canada’s website, "Masks with exhalation valves are not recommended, because they don't protect others from COVID-19 and don't limit the spread of the virus."

Keeping distance from other passengers and sitting within 6 feet in a long-haul flight may increase your risk of getting COVID-19, but wearing the right mask and taking every protective measure will reduce your risk.

Reducing COVID-19 Risk in Air Travel

Airlines have taken a stronger stance on face mask compliance, including in-flight to ensure the safety of everyone on the aircraft. This means wearing a face mask even when you go to sleep.

As airlines start and continue their flight while COVID-9 is on board, policies and precautions are implemented in airports and planes. Some airlines are operating on a limited number of flights and cabin capacity.

Most mandate the use of face coverings of airport workers and flight crews and require their passengers to wear both face coverings and shields at all times - from boarding to disembarkation at the destination.

Consequences for passengers who won't comply with protocols are implemented. Some consider banning travellers who won't comply with the requirements of wearing a face covering.

Other measures include enhanced cleaning and disinfection protocols, temperature testing, contactless boarding and baggage processing, and control of aisles and lavatories to minimize contact.

In general, Canadian airlines have mandatory face mask requirements. For instance, WestJet has a "zero-tolerance mask policy that took effect on September 1. AirCanada also makes it mandatory for passengers to wear face masks. Check-in, boarding, and onboard preventive measures are also implemented to better protect every passenger and their employees.

Even flight passengers are taking massive precautions to protect themselves from the coronavirus. They pack their own food and water and bring disinfectant wipes for tray tables, seats, and armrests. Some even wear biohazard suits, laboratory goggles, and even keep their protective face mask as they sleep. Taking more precautions is always better, than less or worse, nothing.

Air Travel in the Time of COVID-19

The COVID-19 outbreak has significantly impacted air travel. It has changed how people travel - at least for a while until we await the vaccine. And until this pandemic is under control, we need to protect ourselves by wearing a mask.

While masks may initially feel uncomfortable, it's a measure that everyone needs to successfully curb the pandemic. It's what we all need to do to get through this crisis together and faster. After all, we all want to get back out there and travel without worries again.

While air travel during coronavirus is nothing like it's used to be, following all precautions and protocols will make your next flight a relaxing, safe, and healthy one.

As the world and the skies reopen, the world of travel will change - and those changes remain to be seen. From why and where we go to our airplane seat selections, people will emerge as different travellers than before this crisis began.

So rather than worrying or getting stressed on your next flight, just sleep it off with your mask on. You don’t want to put your health at risk or get banned from flying again, right?

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