As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread across the globe, experts have advised individuals to wear masks.
Do you know what’s the best COVID-19 mask?
In most countries, face masks are mandatory. COVID-19 is spread when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks, and the respiratory droplets find their way into a non-infected person. But, using face masks is said to slow down the transmission of this virus.
Now, with the shortage of surgical mask supplies, many people have opted to make their own masks. But, health professionals say that some face masks are more effective at reducing COVID-19 transmission than others. Continue reading this article to learn more about masks and how to avoid the COVID-19 virus.
First, Should You Wear a Face Mask?
Before we talk about the best mask for COVID-19, it’s essential we begin our discussion from this point. Masks may help prevent large droplets from an infected person from evaporating into smaller ones which can travel farther.
Although one may catch this virus through their eye’s membranes, masks help cover your nose and mouth hence reducing the passageways for coronavirus. A study conducted in Health Affairs compared COVID-19 growth rates before and after masks in Columbia and concluded that wearing masks slows down coronavirus’s growth rate.
Another study also analyzed the number of COVID-19 deaths in 198 countries and concluded that countries that favor wearing masks had low death rates. So, while they may not completely protect you, masks play an essential role in reducing the spread of coronavirus. So what’s the best Covid-19 mask? Here are the most recommended ones.
1. N95 and N99 Masks
These are recommended specifically for health workers for a good reason. They both seal a wearer’s nose and mouth such that very few particles can seep out or in.
Their fiber tangles help filter airborne pathogens. Research published in the Journal of Hospital infection which evaluated the ability of more than 10 masks to filter coronavirus particles concluded that N95 and N99 reduced an individual’s risk of being infected by 94-99% after twenty minutes of being in a highly contaminated area.
These masks however are for healthcare workers. Plus, they’re not compatible with people who have facial hair or children. They’re intended to be used only once but researches are evaluating different ways of cleaning these masks.
2. Surgical Masks
Also called medical masks are made from non-woven fabric and are usually a safe option for health workers who can’t access an N95/N99 mask.
A study conducted in April revealed that these masks reduced the transmission of several human coronaviruses through small aerosols as well as respiratory droplets.
However, it didn’t include SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19. In general, these masks are 3 times more effective at blocking aerosols containing viruses compared to homemade ones.
However, healthcare workers should still access them first before the public. They usually fit loosely and are disposable. Like the N95 ones, they can only be used once.
3. Hybrid Masks
These are the best and safe homemade option. They’re designed by combining 2 layers of 600-thread cotton with a different material such as flannel, silk, or chiffon.
A recent paper revealed that they can filter more than 80% of small particles, i.e. less than 300 nanometers, and 90% of large particles that are bigger than 300 nanometers. A combination of cotton and chiffon is recommended as it offers the most protection.
But individuals can also combine cotton and flannel, cotton and silk, or 4 layers of natural silk. In fact, researchers concluded that they can filter small particles than N95 masks, however, they’re not good at filtering large particles.
The World Health Organization also recommends fabric masks with three layers; inner, middle, and outer layers made of a material that isn’t absorbent. Three layers of silk or cotton are said to be highly effective.
4. Cloth Masks
These are made from clothes such as t-shirts. When a wearer sneezes, coughs, or talks, they trap droplets and help reduce the spread of viruses.
Cloth masks are easy to make, wash and you can wear them more than once. But, it’s essential that you avoid touching your masks. If you do, ensure that you wash or sanitize it.
Also, if your cloth mask becomes dirty or wet, avoid wearing it. Additionally, don’t share it with anyone else.
5. Masks with Valves
They’re designed to help a wearer easily breathe out, but as you do that, they also exhale their germs into the air. However, many medical facilities don’t encourage using masks with valves.
While they do a good job of protecting a person, the one-way valves reduce their effectiveness. So, a contagious wearer can still spread the virus to people around him/her when wearing these masks.
Other Masks that Can Be Used
The Journal of Hospital Infection Study concluded that a vacuum cleaner bag/filter in a cloth mask is a great alternative to a surgical mask. This research found out that it reduced infection by 83% after being exposed to coronavirus for 30 seconds and by 58% after 20 minutes of being in an environment that is highly contaminated.
Its material is good at filtering sprays and splashes like surgical masks, which can be enough for stopping an outbreak.
Additionally, while antimicrobial pillowcases and tea towels are not the best materials, they’re better than a single cotton layer mask. They are said to be the best options for those with no vacuum cleaner bags or filters.
However, tea towels should be highly woven to offer protection. Also, if you can’t afford or access a mask, you can wrap a scarf around your mouth and nose. Although it’s not that effective, it’s better than nothing.
While we’ve answered; what’s the best COVID-19 mask, how one wears a mask also affects its efficiency. If there’s a wide gap between your mask and skin, its effectiveness is reduced.
Whichever mask you wear, you should ensure that there’s no air leak. It’s also wise that you remember to wash your homemade mask after wearing it. Additionally, take off your mask using elastic tags and don’t touch its front.
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Be safe out there!