Why should one wear a mask? Which kind of mask should one opt for? Are cloth masks effective? These and many more questions were answered by Dr Anirudh Kohli on Saturday, July 25 as part of the Health Live @ Seniors Today series
On Saturday, July 25, Health Live @ Seniors Today hosted senior doctor, Dr Anirudh Kohli to speak on the essentials related to correct usage of masks.
Dr Anirudh Kohli is Chief Radiologist at the Breach Candy Hospital Trust, Mumbai. He is an avid photographer, trekker and a keen traveller.
Here are the takeaways from Health Live @ Seniors Today
- Unmasking the Mask – Mask is an essential part of PPE (personal protective equipment) that was used mostly by medical professionals pre-Covid-19. Since the pandemic, it has become an essential part of our daily lives. There are confusing, contradictory and mixed information that are being flip-flopped around by national and international organisations, of which some of the information is incorrect. Hence it is of utmost importance to have the correct information about masks so that you can opt for the one that suits you best.
- Importance of Mask – 60% of Covid-19 positive cases are asymptomatic. While asymptomatic cases show no symptoms, symptomatic cases begin to shed the virus before the symptoms appear. Wearing a mask can prevent Covid-19 from spreading. For instance, a Covid-19 asymptomatic person travelled in a bus without wearing a mask with 39 fellow travellers and infected five. Later on, the same person wore a mask and travelled in a minibus with 14 fellow travellers and infected none.
- Risk assessment – If 80% people wear a mask, the risk of Covid-19 spread is negligible. If 50% people wear a mask, the risk goes up to 18% and if nobody wears a mask there is a 35% chance of Covid-19 infection.
- Types of masks – There are three categories – cloth, surgical and respirators.
- Cloth masks are commonly used by the public and can be easily mass produced. It is useful for non-health care professionals and uninfected patients. It can be used with a face shield and is useful in public spaces – grocery stores, pharmacies… However, cloth masks are 50 times less effective than N95.
- Surgical masks are triple-layered. The inner most absorbs moisture to prevent the mask from getting wet easily. The middle layer acts as a filter and the outer most layer repeals liquids. They have pleats so that nose, mouth and chin are covered. However, these masks are not meant to protect from infection as they have a loose fit that allows air to enter from sides.
- Respirators is a PPE that is worn on face – filtering face piece respirator. It reduces risk of inhaling hazardous air bone particles and provides high filtration frequency. These masks are classified depending upon the type of substance filtration; N – non-oily particles, P – oily particles (exhaust fumes), R – some oily particles. While the number denotes filtration efficiency 95/99/100. N-95 hence can filter 95% of non-oily particles.
- N95 – The air filtration prevents microorganism and noxious substance from entering. Millions of polypropylene microfibres are layered on top of each other. These are electro statically charged to maintain the ability to filter micro particles. N95 fits tightly ensuring no air seeps in from the sides.
- N95 Valve mask – These masks have an exhalation valve that prevents condensation inside the mask – misting of glasses, also it helps breathe easier. It should not be worn by Covid-19 patients as the exhalation valve will contaminate the surrounding. It is ideal for outdoor workout and it helps breathe easily.
- N95 mask without the valve – This mask traps heat and vapour from the mouth causing discomfort. It is ideal for Covid-19 positive patients to prevent contamination around them.
- Is it safe to reuse N95? – Yes! Wash the mask with soap and water as often as you can or you may also air dry it for 72 hours. But make sure that it should not affect the fit or compromise filtration capabilities.
- When to discard N95? – The minute you notice any tears or if it does not effectively seal your face or becomes visibly dirty, contaminated with bodily fluids or nasal secretions, discard it immediately.
- Fake N95 – As there is a shortage of N95 masks there have been fake N95 masks in the market. Opt for a certified N95 by National Institute for (NIOSH) or FFP2 – EN149
- Donning/Doffing – Donning means to wear the mask; while doffing means to take it off. Incorrect donning and doffing can cause an infection. Also, incorrect donning may give a false sense of security.
- Donning – First make sure your hands are clean. Place the mask on your face – cover nose and mouth. Secure the elastic bands or ear loops, make sure it fits tightly. Ensure the masks fits snugly around nose, face and chin. There should be no air gaps.
- Doffing – First washing your hands. Avoid contact with front surface of mask which is potentially contaminated. Grasp the elastic and remove the mask holding both ties so that the mask is untouched.
- Everyone should wear a mask – If you are unable to get an N95 mask, a three-layered cotton mask is an alternative that you can opt for. Although it may not be as effective as N95. Its better to wear one then none. Cotton masks are washable and reusable.
- Treat your mask like underwear – Do not touch or adjust your mask especially in public. Do not borrow or lend. Make sure the fit is good and comfortable. Make sure it is cleaned regularly. If there are any holes in it, or its stained, or its damp, dispose it.
- Face Shield/goggles – These prevent contamination caused due to the droplets generated by cough or sneezing. It prevents an inadvertent touching of the eyes, nose and mouth with a contaminated hand.
- New mantra is to stay fit – New normal calls for a reboot as you are home. Everybody is maintaining hygiene. It’s encouraging a better lifestyle. Eat well, exercise regularly and wear a mask.