Months ago, face masks were an alien item to most people. You only saw them when you were in the hospital because medical personnel wore them. But when the COVID-19 pandemic appeared, it became necessary for all people to wear them. It is now a fashion accessory that acts as a preventive measure against the dreaded disease.
The current pandemic comes from the SARS-CoV-2 virus – an infectious disease that targets the respiratory system. It initially manifested in senior citizens and the immuno-compromised. But within months, it has mutated into a virus that no one is immune to. Now, both young and old can be carriers of the virus. The virus-movers can be asymptomatic, but a single cough or sneeze is enough to transfer the pathogen from one person to the next. This is why face masks are essential to slow down the spread of the disease. But how do you know which ones are effective in combating the virus? Three types are currently recommended for use by medical experts.
Surgical masks are one of the most effective and affordable defenses in the fight against COVID-19. It is a loose-fitting type of personal protective equipment that shields against massive sneeze or cough airborne particles. It has elastic bands that you loop onto the ears to secure the mask on the face. Wearing one will also prevent you from transmitting the virus, should you have it. However, it does not filter very tiny particles. It is a single-use product to avoid contamination. So if the mask is already soiled or damaged, it should be removed and discarded safely. Hands should also be washed after touching the mask.
While both surgical masks and N95 respirators are valid, the N95 has more of an advantage over the former. It filters almost 95% of airborne (0.3 microns) particles. An adequately fitted respirator is usually a close fit, so it is virtually impossible for even the smallest of particles to get through the mask surface.
But just like its surgical counterpart, this type of mask should always be discarded after one use. When damaged or wet, it will already be dysfunctional and, therefore, should be thrown away to avoid further contamination. And it is recommended to leave the N95s as additional protection for the medical personnel, as they are the ones who are more exposed to the virus.
Cloth face masks
Instead of surgical and N95 respirators, the cloth masks are also useful. Any fabric will do – t-shirts, scarves, enormous handkerchiefs, bandanas, and even pillowcases. Go for tightly woven cloths. Recent research showed that a combination of different textiles such as cotton, silk, and synthetic fibres, can be an effective virus combatant. Some face masks also have provisions for a separate removable filter, which allows a lot of airflow while ensuring topnotch protection. If you have no access to a HEPA filter, then additional layers of tightly-woven fabric are also recommended. And for the fashion chic, have no fear. Most of them are also decorative, with a lot of designs to choose from.
The current virus respects no one and is a threat to humankind. If a cough or a sneeze is enough to scare you out of your wits, you should protect yourself and your loved one. It is recommended that you wear a face mask and save lives – yours and the people around you.