Can face masks help slow the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19?
Yes, the use of face masks coupled with other preventive measures, such as frequent washing of hands with soap water or 70% alcohol-based sanitizers and social distancing, helps slow down the spread of the coronavirus.
So the next logical question that comes to one’s mind is why weren't face masks recommended in the first place at the start of the pandemic?
Well, during that time, the experts were not aware of the extent to which people infected with COVID-19 could spread the virus before symptoms appeared. Neither the experts were aware that there was symptomatic and asymptomatic nature of COVID-19 patients, and both were unknowingly laying the infection to others by transmitting the virus.
As the pandemic started assuming dangerous levels, these discoveries led public health groups to spread awareness on face masks and other preventive measures. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization have included face masks in their recommendations for slowing the virus's spread. The CDC recommends the use of cloth face masks for the public, and on the other hand surgical and N95 masks for the health care providers. But they have strictly instructed to prevent hoarding of face masks, that might create a shortfall. In reality, many people are scrambling to buy face masks, thus leading to a shortage-like situation at many places.
How do the different types of masks work?
Broadly speaking, there are three categories of facemasks, namely surgical masks, N95 masks, and cloth masks. Each has its own merits and demerits, and we have tried to cover the details in a concise manner below.
i) Surgical masks
A surgical mask, also known as a medical mask, is a loose-fitting disposable mask that protects the wearer's nose and mouth from droplets, splashes, and sprays, which may contain bacteria and viruses. It filters out large particles in the air and may protect others by reducing exposure to the respiratory secretions and saliva and the mask wearer. Although any surgical mask has not been approved by the USFDA (United States Food and Drug Administration) at the time of writing, one may opt for these masks when N95 masks are not available.
ii) N95 masks
N95 is a type of respirator that offers more protection than a surgical mask because it can filter out large and small particles from the air. It is designed to block 95% of tiny particles of size 3 micron. Some variants of N95 masks have valves that make them easier to breathe through. However, in the case of these masks, unfiltered air is exhaled by the wearer. Thus N95 with a valve doesn't prevent the wearer from spreading the virus.N95 masks are intended to be disposable, just like surgical masks.
iii) Cloth masks
A cloth mask is designed to block the saliva and cough droplets released when the wearer talks, coughs, or sneezes. Everyone should wear cloth masks to help reduce the spread of the virus by asymptomatic people who have COVID-19. They are most likely to reduce the coronavirus spread when people in public settings widely use them. It has been proved that countries that gave the mandate to use face masks and social distancing and strictly followed isolation and testing in the early stages of the pandemic were able to successfully slow down the spread of the coronavirus.
In the scenario, where N95 and surgical masks are in short supply and should be reserved for health care providers, it is recommended that cloth face coverings and masks should be used by the general public. It is easy to find or make cloth masks and they can be reused and washed. Cloth masks can be made from everyday materials, such as sheets made of tightly woven cotton, and the cloth masks should include multiple fabric layers. Rhysley is strongly committed to manufacture and supply high quality personal protection products ranging from 3 Ply Disposable Face Masks, N95 Respirator Face Masks, Cloth masks, Disposable Gloves, Shoe Covers, Hair Caps, and PPE kits.
How to wear a cloth face mask
The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended that one wear a cloth face mask when around people who don't cohabit together and in public settings when social distancing is difficult. For a mask to be effective, it becomes imperative for us to know the right way to put on and take off a mask,
Given below are a few pointers for taking off and putting on a cloth mask:
- One must wash or sanitize their hands before and after putting on and taking off the mask.
- One must place a mask over one’s mouth and nose.
- The mask should be tied behind one’s head or use ear loops and make sure it's snug.
- The mask should not be touched while wearing it, and if it touched accidentally, then one must wash or sanitize hands.
- If the mask becomes dirty or wet, one should replace it with a clean one. The used mask must be put in a sealable bag until one can wash it.
- The mask can be removed by untying it or lifting off the ear loops without touching the front of the mask or face.
- One should wash hands immediately after removing the mask.
- One should regularly wash the mask with soap and water in the washing machine or by hand.
Precautions for facemask
- One must not put masks on anyone who has trouble breathing or is unconscious or otherwise unable to remove the mask without help.
- One should not put masks on children under 2 years of age.
- One must not use face masks as a substitute for social distancing.
Tips for adjusting to a face mask
It is a very daunting and a challenging experience to wear facemask for prolonged periods and one starts suffering from mask fatigue after some time. One should adhere to the following tips for making the transition smooth and seamless.
- Start slow. One should wear the mask at home to start with and then progressively increase the time until one feels more comfortable.
- Find your fit. Masks come in a variety of sizes and styles and have to be worn for a longer period of time. So, if the mask is not comfortable or the fitting is such that it is becoming difficult to breathe, one must consider other masks.
If one still has concerns about wearing a mask, one must talk with the doctor about protecting oneself, family, and others during the pandemic.