Turn Your Airline Sleep Mask into a Face Mask

In early April 2020, in order to protect ourselves and others, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) advised that everyone wear some type of face covering ​when in public. Some cities and counties throughout the United States have now made varying degrees of that instruction a mandate for essential businesses and their customers, as well as for the resident population. Here’s the CDC recommendation (emphasis added):

It is critical to emphasize that maintaining 6-feet social distancing remains important to slowing the spread of the virus.  CDC is additionally advising the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others.  Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure.

The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators.  Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance.


undefinedWhen searching through my belongings for sufficient covering, it occurred to me that I already had something that could work. It was part of my amenity bag from Japan Airlines–a cotton front, terrycloth-backed sleep mask. Flip it upside down, and voilà, instant practical (and comfortable) face mask.

As travelers, you might already have some of these stashed away. Be sure that it covers your nose and mouth sufficiently and that you can adequately breathe through it. Test it at home by wearing it and walking around for a short period. Cotton is best and nylon might not provide the breathability you need.

Remember, this is not a cure-all or a shield that guarantees you won’t contract a coronavirus or any other illness. It’s a basic measure of protection that fits within the CDC guidelines. Your smartest options are still to self-isolate, maintain a minimum 6-feet social distance when in public, wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds (especially after touching commonly used things like door knobs, faucet handles, touch pads, etc.), and DO NOT TOUCH YOUR EYES, NOSE, OR MOUTH.

We can all be part of the COVID-19 solution by keeping ourselves heathy and taking smart measures to prevent transmission and reception of any illness. Take good care of yourselves, your families, and your communities. We’ll get through this.

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