Lauren Carlstrom, O+ Team Member |
Joining the travel trend of the Fourth of July weekend, I was among an estimated 48.9 million Americans who helped mark the largest number of U.S. travelers on record for the holiday (Hall). Exposed to new sights, smells and sounds, my journey Westward to San Francisco, California had some thrilling, and some chilling, experiences that caused me to rethink how I might chose to travel.
SF’s Chinatown, to which many Chinese immigrants were first drawn for better economic opportunities and the gold rush of the 1850s, is a part of a second national influx of Chinese-American immigration. It was in this lively “city within a city” that an ever-increasingly common image – a person wearing a protective face mask – captured my attention.
People use the medical or surgical disposable face masks, which are fairly inexpensive, to help control the spread of germs and disease as well as to help mitigate exposure to air pollution. During the 2018 Northern California “Camp Fire” – whose 153,336 charred acres caused widespread air quality problems for more than a week after the fire ceased – spurred people to purchase these face masks because breathing proved difficult (Wikipedia).
I’ve tried a disposable mask before in hopes of staying healthy during a long flight. Roughly five years ago, I wore a disposable dust mask on a trip to Scotland. I recall a family member expressing slight embarrassment over my jarring appearance as we boarded the flight. Unfortunately, the surgical mask poorly fit my face, and inevitability dust and germs found their way into my respiratory track by the time the captain leveled the plane at cruising altitude.
These situations of when and how dust masks help people live healthier, cleaner lives ran through my mind as I rode the number 30 bus through Chinatown. How can I travel, and breathe clean air, or at least air that doesn’t pollute my lungs with particulate matter or any yucky germy stuff?
Of course, inhaling a few deep breaths from an Oxygen Plus (O+) oxygen canister when I land remains my goal, as breathing it helps restore a body’s depleted oxygen levels to normal, healthy levels. My favorite travel buddy, which is lightweight and fits in a small bag, Oxygen Plus helps me beat jet lag and flushes out that stuffy airplane cabin air, so I feel more alert and hit the ground running. In case my personal experience doesn’t translate, research shows that flying via commercial air, where the cabins have lower-than-normal air pressure, can drain oxygen levels up to 10% (Harvard Medical Review, Geertsema et. al.).
So, until O+ oxygen bottles are permitted to be carried in checked and/or carry-on luggage, perhaps this healthy-minded person living in our polluted, germ-infused world needs to reconsider wearing a medical mask in order to truly travel smarter. That is, assuming I can find a new trailblazing travel buddy that fits my face.
Hall, Julie. Record-Breaking 48.9 Million Americans to Travel this Independence Day. https://newsroom.aaa.com/2019/06/record-breaking-48-9-million-americans-travel-fourth-of-july/. Retrieved July 8, 2019.
Wikipedia, Camp Fire (2018). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camp_Fire_(2018). Retrieved July 8, 2019.
Excerpts from Boosting Your Energy, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.
Geertsema, C, Williams, AB, Dzendrowskyj, P, Hanna, C, “Effects of commercial airline travel on oxygen saturation in athletes,” British Journal of Sports Medicine, 2008;42:877-881.