When it comes to holiday travel, there's a question on many people's minds -- should you still wear a face mask?
Dr. John Brownstein, an epidemiologist at Boston Children's Hospital, says it depends.
"I'm concerned about the upcoming respiratory virus season, especially with the onslaught of holiday travel," Brownstein said. "We know that travel can be a leading cause of actually transmitting and being infected by viruses like flu, like COVID, and RSV."
Dr. Brownstein says a high quality, proper use of a mask can still effectively reduce the risk of spreading respiratory pathogens.
While wearing one is always a helpful tool to defend oneself against infectious diseases while preventing spread, Dr. Brownstein says risk varies from group to group.
"While masking may not be for everyone, it can be especially important for those in older age groups are those with pre-existing conditions," he said.
Dr. Brownstein adds that location is also a key determining factor to whether you should mask up. He stresses it's important one do so in crowded settings or poorly ventilated areas.
"Masks in different settings can be especially useful," Dr. Brownstein said. "Think about the crowded bathrooms in public or the TSA lines or even on the airplane, especially during takeoff and landing when the air cycling is not as efficient as when you're up in the air."
He stresses that face masks, like vaccines, hand washing and staying home when sick, are tools in our toolkit to combat infectious diseases.
"We want to use these tools that we have to limit the transmission of these viruses in the heat of respiratory virus season," he said. "With the tools we have, we can have a healthy holiday season."