COVID-19 has wreaked all sorts of havoc on the ordinary existence of people, globally. The way daily life was conducted has been changed completely. Gone were the days when people could casually saunter outside of their homes, hug their buddies, and bump into people en route.
Now, due to the epidemic, every responsible person is hypervigilant. Social distancing is keeping every stranger and friend at bay. Unnecessary mobility has also been curtailed. Another great change that has occurred on account of the epidemic is the essentialness of face masks.
Since coronavirus is a respiratory virus, it is very important to filter out the air we breathe in to protect against the virus. Many people are asymptomatic and hence it is very difficult to ascertain which person might have the virus and so, a physical barrier is of utmost importance. Even people who have had the virus before are not safe. Therefore, it is vital to understand how to use the mask and which is the best face mask.
Properties and Principles of Face Masks
The entire point of the mask is to act as an efficient barrier. Hence, it is very necessary to ensure that the mask is sort of enclosed on all ends; from the nose to the underneath the face. A very loose mask does not make the best face mask as it still allows for the potential pathogens to pass through. The mask should also not have holes or be damaged otherwise, as it defeats the purpose.
Moreover, both when wearing and taking off the mask, it is important not to touch it to prevent the contamination of both, the mask and the hands. If they are reusable, store them properly rather than strewing them around.
Also, it is important to know the type of mask being used and its life.
Type of face masks
Ideally, face masks should have at least 2 layers to best protect against the virus. There are several categories of masks that have been approved for use during the pandemic.
1 The respirator masks
These types of masks offer the best protection against viruses. Made with a high degree of technicality, these masks effectively filter out a large percentage of the particles suspended in the air, thereby acting as the best barrier against coronavirus.
N95, kN95 are some of the examples of the respirator masks that filter out 95% of the particles. There are similar other editions of the masks with varying degrees of filtering. These masks are a very snug fit and thus also have a valve attached to allow the air to be exhaled out. The disadvantage of this is that people who carry the virus and wear mask may still be able to expel the virus into the air.
Moreover, anyone wearing N95 grade masks needs to be careful about not doing any strenuous activity as in extreme cases, it can lead to respiratory distress. All in all, N95 is the best face mask for front line doctors and workers.
2 Surgical Masks
Surgical masks are fitted with layers that prevent the moisture particles from passing through. Hence, they also serve effectively to ward-off the big vesicles of the virus. These masks prevent one from getting the virus and also exhaling the virus to endanger others as well.
There are certain considerations to be made when using the mask; touch the mask with clean hands only and be sure to check that the mask is not damaged. The edge with the metal pin lies on the nose so that the pin can be fixed and fitted over the bridge of the nose. Masks are a personal item and should not be touched by others. Safely throw them away in bins with closed lids and be sure to clean your hands afterward as it carries all sorts of germs on it.
The surgical masks allow for loose-fitting, so they are best face masks for those people who get claustrophobic by wearing the respiratory masks. The surgical masks are disposable and therefore cannot be reused or washed. This is the con of the masks that they lead to excessive wastage.
3 Cloth Masks
Cloth masks are another great alternative. Some people use just cloth, whereas the others insert a layer of filter like a coffee filter, or tissue paper, to enact as another preventive barrier. These masks should also be fitted from the bridge of the nose to the bottom of the face to provide maximum coverage.
The masks should be stitched from clean cloth. It should also be stored well before and after use. Also, when making the mask yourself, be sure to stitch it properly; while it should not be very loose, it should also have breathing room to prevent suffocation.
The downside to the cloth mask is that it is more porous and thus more liable to allow the pathogens through. However, cloth masks are reusable and can be washed. This makes them more economically and environmentally feasible.
Who should not wear face masks?
Whereas face masks are a great way to prevent against COVID-19, it is also important to watch out for scenarios and conditions under which wearing the masks is dangerous. Children under the age of 2 should not wear masks. Any person suffering from breathing problems should also not wear masks as it can causes problems and distress in them. People who have mobility issues such that they cannot remove their own masks themselves should also not be made to wear them.
An effective strategy to control the disease, face masks are essential for people venturing outside and working in close quarters.