People around the world love getting together with their families for the holidays. Because modern families can be widely dispersed across distant cities, states, provinces, and even countries, travel is often a necessary and important step leading up to holiday celebrations.
This holiday season,
give the gift of clean air
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Travel was discouraged as the height of the SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2) outbreak in 2020. As of 2023, travel restrictions have largely been lifted.
If holiday travel is discouraged by public health officials, it is always best to take the professionals’ advice. But if travel isn’t discouraged, there are recommendations for helping making holiday travel less worrying.
Following are a few holiday travel safety tips to consider in trying to help make the journey back home for the holidays safer and brighter.
1. Avoid infection on public transportation
Air travel inevitably means being in close quarters with other people. While COVID-19 restrictions are no longer in place, there are recommendations for avoiding potential contact. Health agencies in the United States, Canada, and the European Union still recommend several steps that can taken during air travel (3) (4) (5).
Some of the recommendations include:
- be fully vaccinated before boarding
- when possible before and after the flight, socially distance
- wear a well-constructed, well-fitted mask
Travel on trains, subways, and buses still list similar health recommendations.
Advice from public health officials continues to be that the best way for passengers in to avoid COVID-19 and other infections is to practice regular hand-washing, vaccinate, socially distance, and wear a mask.
2. Keep air travel pollution out of your public transportation
PM2.5, fine particulate matter measuring 2.5 micrometers in diameter or less, has been associated with a range of health problems.
Ultrafine particles, particulate matter measuring as small as 0.003 microns, are so small that after inhalation and entering the lungs, they can pass into the bloodstream and affect every organ of the body. Higher than usual concentrations of ultrafine particles can be found near airports(7) (8) (9).
A few health problems associated with PM2.5 and ultrafine particles can include:
- heart and lung disease
- asthma and more intense flareups
Other air travel pollution and pollutants found in public transportation may include:
- carbon dioxide
- carbon monoxide
- nitrogen oxides such as nitrogen dioxide
- sulfur dioxide
- volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
Some of the listed pollutants have been measured exceeding air quality limits in railway stations. According to a 2019 paper published by King’s College London and the University of Edinburgh, both Edinburgh’s Waverly and London’s King’s Cross stations were observed exceeding PM2.5, PM10, and nitrogen dioxide European Union air quality limits (10).
Wearing a protective KN95/FFP2 mask will help keep PM2.5 out of your lungs while traveling.
Need help finding the perfect air purifier this holiday season?
3. Holiday road trip
Vehicle travel does mean less time spent around other people but is still not entirely without risk – and not just the risk of infectious disease.
Presuming that everyone in the car is vaccinated and/or have shared the same space during the pandemic, drivers and passengers may still encounter opportunities for infection at gas stations, restaurants, and other public spaces. In those instances, vaccination, social distancing, and mask-wearing can help prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2 and other viral infections.
As with public transportation, another airborne health risk for holiday travelers can come from driving and being on the road itself. PM2.5, ultrafine particles, nitrogen dioxide, and VOCs are all common vehicle emissions found near highways and road. Nitrogen oxides and VOCs chemically combine in sunlight to create ground level ozone or smog. Ozone is a respiratory irritant that can present as a haze and can be a common pollutant in some cities such as Los Angeles and Mexico City.
To better control in-cabin air pollutants while on the road, drivers may consider installing a vehicle air purifier capable of capturing odors, gases, and pollutants.
4. Keep your hotel room air clean
Whether staying in a guest bedroom or in a hotel during holiday travel, there’s peace of mind in knowing that one’s sleeping quarters are free from contaminants – particularly if a hotel room is near a major freeway, a major source of airborne pollutants.
Air pollutants don’t always come indoors from the outside – the source might be within the room itself. A study published in Indoor Air surveyed Brazilian hotels for dust mite and pet allergens in 2007 (11). The research found that dust mite, feline, and canine allergens were present in all levels of hotels in the study, presenting a possible risk for hotel guests with asthma and allergies.
For those stays away from home, bring a personal air purifier to help clean the air overnight. An efficient personal air purifier with quiet fans that can be setup on a nightstand can deliver clean air directly to a holiday traveler’s breathing space while they sleep.
5. Know your air quality on the go
It’s important to know what the air pollution concentrations are in the area. For the home, there are air quality monitors for monitoring either indoor or outdoor air pollutants. On the go, download an app that can provide essential, real-time air quality updates and forecasts to help prepare for and take action during poor air quality days.
The holidays are meant to be a joyous time of year, spent surrounded by loved ones and enjoying time together. Being on the road can be stressful enough – there’s no reason to add to that stress by unnecessarily exposing oneself to airborne pollutants.
By taking smart precautions and employing air cleaning technology, it is possible to help mitigate the dangers of contaminants and help keep everyone safer and in high spirits this holiday season.