As the fight against the coronavirus continues, the mask mandate that has been enacted in most states will mean that most will need to wear masks in public. Especially in instances whereby social distancing can be impossible. At the onset of the pandemic, when masks were considered crucial in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, most people would use cloth as masks, but with time these masks have been considered ineffective.
Medical masks have been considered effective. N95 masks were considered as the most appropriate for consumer use. However, there was a shortage of masks due to the need for frontline workers to be regularly supplied. Therefore there was a need for protective masks, that would be in constant supply and that were considered affordable. Indeed obtaining masks that can be used daily has been necessary; masks that are comfortable, stylish, and economical.
It has not been proven that mass masking prevents transmission of SARs-Cov-2. Masks do not in their entirety fight the coronavirus but help to obstruct it; other measures have to be observed. Different studies on the efficacy of masks are being carried out in different settings and because they are using varied methodology, they cannot be considered conclusive and therefore there have not been generalized findings on all these studies as far as the pandemic is concerned.
These research findings, however, do safely conclude that surgical masks and N95s are the most effective in the fight against the coronavirus. Surgical masks filtrate most of the air particles but do not have the filtration efficacy of N95 respirators. They also don’t fit properly.
N95s filter at least 95% of the pathogens in the air and are the most effective and seal better than surgical masks and are therefore the most appropriate for frontline health workers. It should also be noted that a mask should not be porous. If it leaks, it will not protect you from respiratory droplets.
Research experiments have shown that a good mask should be layered, able to filter, and fit well. This means that people can use other masks other than medical masks as long as they are properly made. Consumer masks are also being manufactured with the idea that they are to be worn for long periods as comfort is key.
What Is A Good Mask?
The following are pointers as to what makes an efficient mask, click here to find a good mask to protect yourself:
- A good mask should be well-fitting. It should completely cover your nose and mouth.
- A good mask should be layered to obstruct particles in the atmosphere. 3-5 layers are sufficient.
- Should have an inside filter or vacuum
- It should have a pocket to place the filter.
- The fabric should be tightly weaved.
You can upgrade a medical mask to make it more comfortable or make your own mask at home. The materials that make good masks are silk, nylon, and vacuum cleaner filters or a combination of fabric; however, 100% cotton is the most effective as the fabric weave is less porous than these other materials. The mask should have multiple layers but should not be overbearing.
So how should the mask function and be comfortable at the same time?
- The layer next to the skin should be lightweight and feel comfortable. It should be non-woven to allow for the circulation of air.
- The middle layer should provide a barrier to moisture droplets.
- The exterior layer should be heavy so that the mask can hold shape when it forms around the face and the mask should be secured by clips.
A filter is also necessary for more layering as a cloth is not effective in filtering out respiratory droplets. The filter also allows normal airflow. N95 masks (respirators), which are recommended, are mostly used by frontline workers as they have filters made from polypropylene. Coffee filters and paper towels placed between layers serve as effective filters. PM2.5 filters are considered the most effective; they can filter out the tiniest particles, i.e., 2.5 microns. So what if you cannot make your own mask? This brings us to the idea of retail reusable face masks.
Reusable Face Masks
A good mask should also protect from dust and air particles and can be rewashed and worn again. Reusable face masks are not the same as disposable face masks used by medical practitioners. They can be reused and rewashed without possible damage. They are also more comfortable to have on as one goes by their day to day errands. Yet, they have to be made in such a way that they seal correctly to protect the wearer and those around them from respiratory droplets, germs, and bacteria in the atmosphere.
So why is the term reusable?
Reusable means that they can be worn again and still function to protect the wearer. They can be washed and worn again till the wearer needs to dispose of them to avoid self-contamination. So what should you look for when using a reusable face mask? A good example is the reusable face masks from 72 hours. They are comfortable to wear, eco-friendly, and convenient to carry. They are made from 100% cotton, have a soft feel, and have layers that reduce exposure to pathogens in the air. They are not meant for medical use and should not be used in places of harmful powder and gas.
Reusing means getting to touch the mask again, yet it could have the pathogens. Extended use is advisable than reuse. When reuse is the option, rather than disposing of, store the mask in a place with sufficient airflow for three days between uses. For cloth masks, you need to wash them after wearing them, and it is recommended that damp masks be disposed of.
Medical and non-medical masks can be reused. However, precaution should be taken after wearing to ensure that pathogens are disinfected of. The mask’s efficacy depends on its structure, i.e., the fabric and layering for efficient filtration. Discomfort discourages most people from wearing masks for long periods of time yet they are essential. Comfort is key.