No mask mandates on planes? What to consider when traveling with your children under five.
It’s a lot and can be overwhelming, but you’re not alone! Here’s how to mindfully get through these moments.
This change in travel requirements has come at a time where a new variant (B.A.2) has been circulating. Thankfully, the variant has not caused a cause for concern in the pediatric population in terms of a severe rise in hospitalizations or death, however we are not out of the woods just yet. The variant continues to circulate so parents should weigh their benefits and risk of travel.
Everybody has various risk levels they are okay with.
Some are very risk averse while others are very little.
And then you have people in between.
Deciding to travel during this time is based on your own level of comfort.
In this blog, I will guide you on things to consider as you make your decision.
Is this activity that you have to travel for, important to you?
If this trip is important to you (only you can answer that), then you can proceed with deciding to travel. If this activity is not important to you, then I would reschedule or reconsider. When making decisions as parents, it’s important to have ownership of your decisions. This can help reduce guilt if in the rare chance someone were to get COVID. Because the risk of getting COVID will never be zero in the foreseeable future, you have to decide if the benefit of the trip outweighs any risk. Once you have determined that the benefit outweighs the risk, GO on your trip without guilt! If you feel you won’t enjoy because of COVID concerns, then reschedule.
Traveling by plane does not mean an immediate exposure to COVID. Many people NEED to travel or WANT to travel and understand the risk and that is okay. As a reminder, the HEPA filtration on airplanes are great and the concern is more so unmasked individuals in large crowds. Even then, it does not mean automatic fear and dread as adults and children are managing well with this variant compared to others before (delta or original Omicron).
Consider health of the travelers in your family
If any of the travelers in your group are immunocompromised or have any underlying medical issues that make COVID more of a risk, I would speak to your clinician to work out a benefit/risk assessment if you need it. If everybody as baseline has no underlying medical conditions and all age-eligible people are vaccinated, this is lower risk.
Traveling if immunocompromised or higher risk doesn’t mean you will be automatically exposed to COVID, but I would handle this as you would a heavy flu season and take precautions accordingly.
Consider health of people you are visiting
If you are vaccinated and in good health, traveling amongst large crowds can mean you contract a respiratory illness (not just COVID). If you are visiting elderly or immunocompromised individuals, have a conversation about precautions they and you would want.
Masking can help reduce the risk of spread of any respiratory virus. If someone is symptomatic in any way (runny nose that is 100% NOT allergies is included), I would avoid seeing vulnerable populations OR wear a mask and keep distance. These are ways we can keep our loved ones safe. This will also help protect them against the hundreds of other viruses circulating right now. COVID is not the only virus circulating, so these precautions can help in many ways. Testing is meh because testing has not been proven to be 100% accurate and this can give you false sense of security. So, if symptomatic—cancel travel or wear a mask if developmentally able.
Read up on any travel restrictions
Stay up to date on federal, state, and local recommendations and restrictions, and check back for potential changes. Some places still require testing or proof of vaccination so it’s important to know these things prior to booking a ticket. This is truer for international travel than domestic travel so be aware.
Remember, you can still mask when traveling!
Just because mandates are gone, doesn’t mean you can’t mask. The best mask for “one-way masking” which is where you are masked to protect yourself and others are not; is a N95, KN95, or KN94 mask. These masks will provide the most optimal filtration of respiratory droplets. If your child is too young for these masks, remember to ask yourself: Is this trip important to us? If yes, then the benefits outweighed the risk for you and you should go.
If you are flying and are under the weather, please make sure to mask up. If all of us did this on a routine basis even after the pandemic was over; we could really reduce the spread of viruses.
Don’t forget other routine vaccinations
During the pandemic, we saw a lot of children delayed on routine vaccinations due to delayed well-checks. Make sure your child is up to date on all routine vaccines before traveling.
Final message on travel during COVID
With surges, also remember that there is higher likelihood of cancellations or delays due to staff getting infected with COVID. Keep this in mind when you consider traveling with kids.
Only travel if you are going to enjoy it. Travel requires money and time and if you’re not into it; it’s not worth it. If you are still risk averse, consider day trips or road-trips first before traveling by plane to get more comfortable with our new normal. Eventually, you will get to a level where you will become comfortable just like we did pre-pandemic (and there is no rush to get there).