A refresher on face mask that will clear your doubts and debunk myths around it
Face masks have been around long before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. People used it for various reasons but mainly to protect against air pollution. However, the spread of Covid-19 across the world has made face masks a necessity for every individual to safeguard themselves from the contagion.
It’s been a year since the pandemic hit us and face masks have become the new normal. Now we are living in times where there is a variety of masks to choose from – homemade cloth masks, surgical masks, N95 masks, and more. But the challenge still remains to determine the right mask for adequate safety and prevention.
This article will help you answer the questions about the importance of masks, the health benefits of it and debunk the myths around it.
1. How does wearing a mask prevent the spread of Covid-19?
There are two ways one can get infected with Covid-19 – by close contact and respiratory droplets. When a Covid-19 patient sneezes, talks, breathes or coughs, the droplets from their body causes the spread of the disease. Or if you come in contact with the patient the chance of one getting infected is high.
An expert from the Stanford University of California, did an experiment using high-speed video and found that hundreds of droplets ranging from 20 to 500 micrometres were generated with a simple sentence, however, these droplets were blocked when the mouth was covered with a face mask made out of layers of cloth.
This experiment made it evident that wearing a mask is an effective way to reduce the spread of the virus. Since it has the ability to stop the droplets from being exposed to the air or to individuals sharing the space. On the other hand, when one does not wear a mask, they end up spreading the virus and infecting people around them. So to keep yourself and your loved one safe, wearing a mask is the answer.
2. Benefits of wearing a face mask
- Reduces risk of transmission, so it helps curb the spread
- Asymptomatic people can protect others from getting infected
- Face masks prevents the spread and thus it will reduce the need of lockdowns
- Prevents hospitalisation and saves the cost
3. Types of masks available in the market
Mainly there are three types of masks that are available and used globally.
- Cloth masks – These kinds can be made at home, or can be store bought to match your outfit if you’d like. They are reusable, densely woven cotton that is thick enough to ensure the droplets stay locked inside. Cloth masks can be used in a public setting, such as public transport, grocery stores, errand runs and like. They are breathable and at the same time prevents large droplets from spreading or being exposed to others.
- Surgical masks – These are the disposable medical masks that are loose-fitted and designed for medical usage. It can prevent large droplets from spilling out, however, it is recommended to wear a snug fitted masks to prevent spreading and contracting the infection.
- N95 masks – Also known as respirators, these masks are designed to protect against tiny droplets/particles suspended in the air. They are often used in healthcare settings and can be used otherwise.
4. Are cloth masks a good option?
According to Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), US, says that using cloth mask provides lower protection than N95, however, it can offer adequate protection if they are designed in a certain way. The mask should be multi-layered, made of water-resistant fabric with a high number of thread count. These masks can be worn outside the medical setting and for community setting correctly made facemasks can provide protection from asymptomatic if used correctly.
5. DIY home-made face masks
One can easily make a simple face mask at home without sewing. All one needs is some breathable fabric, and some elastic bands. However, keep in mind that a cloth mask should be made of certain thickness and should have multiple layers.
6. The correct way to wear a mask
A mask is effective when it is worn correctly. Here is a checklist that will guide you into wearing the mask properly.
- Wash your hands for 20 seconds before wearing the mask.
- Use on the bands while putting on the mask. Avoid touching the insides of the mask at all times.
- Ensure that mask is snug around the nose and covers till the chin.
- Before you step out make sure you can freely breath and communicate conveniently while the mask is on.
7. Why mask should be worn all the time in public?
Since the pandemic is not over yet, hence anywhere outside your home is a risk prone area. A face mask will keep your protected from any kind of coronavirus transmission including indoor and outdoor public places where you may be in a close proximity with others. And most importantly for places where maintaining social distance is next to impossible, a face mask can keep you protected.
8. How to clean reusable face masks?
Always keep a spare mask handy with you. One should wash the mask once it is used or on a daily basis. Wash it with hands using warm water and some soap, or you can always put it for wash along with your regular laundry. But keep in mind that your mask should be completely dry when you wear it as a damp mask will make breathe uncomfortable. And if you are using disposable masks it is advised that you dispose them off and not reuse them again.
9. How to spot fake masks?
Whenever you buy a medical or N95 mask, ensure that it is bought from a reliable store. However, with so many counterfeits going around, here are some factors that will help you pick the right one.
- An original mask will have a NOISH logo printed on it
- If the mask has ear bands instead of loops that go around the head and neck, it’s likely not legit
- Unnecessary decoration and colours
- Fake ones will have no marking at all
10. How is the efficiency of a face mask is tested?
An effectiveness of a face mask is based on several tests that include,
- Breathing resistance – Once the mask is made it is tested to check if the wearer can breathe comfortably
- Filtration – This process helps figure if there are any particle leakage on either side. The mask is also tested for bacteria filtration with regards to filtering microorganism.
- Splash resistance – To check the effectiveness of the mask in preventing droplets moving at high speed from going through to the other side.
- Flammability – To evaluate the flammability if the mask caught fire. It is an essential measure to check the material and ensure prevention of severe injury in case of fire.
One of the most effective methods of testing the effectiveness of the mask is through a match test. To do this test, light a match and then try to blow it out while wearing a mask. If the mask is useful, you will not blow out the flame or even move it.
11. Safety measure to be followed along with mask
Safety from Covid-19 is a multi-pronged approach, it is vital that along with the mask other safety measures should be accompanied.
- Regularly water hands with soap and water
- Sanitizing surfaces and using hand sanitisers
- Face mask protects your nose and mouth. You can prevent droplets reaching your eyes by wearing a shield for your eyes.
- Avoid touching your face in public areas and as much as possible refrain from touching unknown surfaces that may be contaminated.
12. Is wearing a face shield with a mask required?
This measure is helpful because a shield will prevent the absorption of droplets. A face mask alone protects one from transmission and contraction but a face shield will provide and added layer of safety.
13. When would someone find it difficult to wear a mask?
For individuals with hearing impairment, wearing a mask may make it impossible to read lips or communicate. People suffering from mental health conditions such as autism, physical trauma, and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can result in sensory overload and anxiety or panic attacks.
14. Is there an overload of CO2 levels when the mask is on?
CO2 particles are much smaller in size than the virus. It can easily pass through a cloth mask. Also, masks have been around long before the pandemic and it is been used extensively by healthcare professional for years without having an issue. So, it is safe.
15. To reduce community transmission how many people need to wear a mask?
Studies show that at least 80 per cent of the crowd wearing mask can have a positive effect on prevention of Covid-19 transmission. If more people are on the other side (not wearing a mask) can increase the chances of community transmission and has the potential to cause a lockdown. So, it is essential to wear a mask to curb the spread and this will help us end the pandemic.
16. Should one care to wear a mask if they are vaccinated?
Yes, it is essential to wear a mask even if you are vaccinated. The vaccine will prevent the infection from getting severe but it will not protect from getting infected. To ensure safety of yourself and your loved ones wear a mask wherever you go as it will keep you protected.