Last year, I received an email about the Scough, a scarf with an activated carbon mask that fits inside, and to be honest, I thought it sounded kind of germaphobic. And silly. So I filed the email away and didn’t think much about it. But when I kept getting sick after returning from business trips that involved air travel, I decided to purchase one because why the heck not. If anything, they’d make great social media fodder.

And well now, I never fly without it.

Related: 15 of my cold and flu season must haves.

The Scough looks like a cool scarf, but it actually features a small pocket that fits an activated carbon mask. You slide the mask in, pop it over your ears, then wrap the Scough around your head and face. So, it looks like you’re wearing a scarf over your nose and mouth to stay warm, but really, you’re protecting yourself from industrial pollutants, flu bugs, allergens, and yes, even tear gas. When it’s not in use, you can just wear it around your neck like a regular scarf.

It might sound gimmicky, but the science behind what they’ve created looks pretty strong. And they’re not just about keeping people safer. Scough was started, in part, to spread awareness about the issues surrounding pollution and the flu.

Related: 5 foods to help you boost your immune system

Now for me, it’s just a travel essential when I hit the friendly skies every few months for work or leisure and breathe everyone else’s air. Though I’ve been thinking about wearing it on my weekly commute to the city that involves trains and subways. But I know there are lots of folks who commute on public transportation everyday, ride bikes to work or school (yep, kids sizes), and travel on airplanes on a frequent basis where this could make a lot of sense. I say that because it’s not cheap.

But with this terrible flu pretty rampant, and well, all sorts of viruses and allergens floating around, if you want some protection now, or whenever you’re on the road, this is a smart place to start. I’ve worn it every time I fly since I’ve gotten it and I haven’t gotten sick. Knock on wood.

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