Masks, What To Know
Wearing masks have become a part of the public’s “new normal” what with the coronavirus still spreading in the U.S. and around the world. About 85% of Americans have been reported to choose to wear masks in indoor public spaces “always” or “most of the time”, according to a survey by Consumer Reports.
Here’s everything you want to know about masks:
The Difference Between A KN95, An N95 Mask, and A Surgical Mask
“KN95” designates the particle filtering standard established by government regulations in China while “N95” designates the same standard established by the U.S. government in its regulations.
The “95” indicates the minimum percentage of particles – that are at least 300 nanometers (nm), or 0.3 micrometers, and larger – that the face mask can block, which in this case is 95%. This means that an N99 can block at least 99% of 300 nm particles and larger.
Surgical masks do not really provide assured protection from airborne particles as it is a relatively loose-fitting protective mask but can serve as protection from droplets or fluid sprays or if the wearer is contagious.
Wear surgical masks with the multiple-fold side (generally the blue or colored side) facing outwards.
Do Masks Protect the Wearer or Other People?
Masks are intended to stop the spread of a virus from the wearer to other people. But it can add protection for both the wearer and other people as long as it fits properly. Broad mask use is encouraged now during the COVID-19 pandemic because there are people infected with the virus who are symptomatic and asymptomatic.
Properly and consistently worn masks help both healthy and sick people from spreading the virus and protects against aerosols persisting in poorly ventilated environments.
The lifespan of a virus in the air and inorganic materials is unclear as the information is regularly being updated, so it is best to keep protected and wear properly-fitted masks.
Do Masks Need to Cover the Nose of the Wearer?
Masks are meant to protect the wearer’s respiratory system, which included the lungs, throat, and sinuses, from direct exposure to airborne droplets and particles that potentially carry viruses.
The primary entry points to the lungs and throat are the nose and mouth. It is therefore imperative to protect these entry points by covering them up with a mask so that airborne particles potentially carrying a virus will not have an easy pathway to enter your system or for droplets to exit your system.
Kids and Masks
Contrary to so much misinformation in the news and social media, kids are NOT immune to the coronavirus. Currently, it is being advised that kids 2 years and older wear masks when in public spaces or when engaging with people outside their household.
The American Academy of Pediatrics said that “cloth masks are made from breathable materials that will not block the oxygen your child needs nor does it affect your child’s lungs from developing normally. This is because oxygen flows through and around the mask while blocking the spray of spit and respiratory droplets that may contain the virus.”
Can Readily Available Cloth Such as A Bandana, Handkerchief, or T-Shirt Offer the Same Protection as Masks?
Any multilayered piece of cloth offers better protection than nothing at all. That being said, it is always best to have sufficient and proper protection so get in the habit of having a mask with you every time you go out. We are in a “new normal”. Masks are just as important as keys.
The Best and Safest Fabric to Use for Masks
According to Consumer Reports, “One of the primary goals of constructing an effective mask is to force the air that you inhale or exhale to travel the longest path through the mask, encountering the most obstacles (or places that will trap airborne droplets, aerosols, and other particles) as possible.”
Masks should be made of different kinds of high-density, high-thread-count fabric that can provide relatively good filtration and good protection.
Tip: Do a spot-check by holding your mask up to a light or a bright window—very little light should pass through.
Recommended fabric: Fabrics that have dense weaves (tightly woven warp and weft threading) with textured microstructure (such as cotton and silk) utilized in multilayered (3-plus) construction.
Make sure that the cloth mask fits tightly against the nose bridge and along the face. Silicon linings along the mask perimeters provide a seal against the skin that enhances protection.
Let’s Talk Filters
Generally, adding filters enhances the protective component of masks just as a multi-layered cloth mask gets added protection from adding more layers. A coffee filter may not be a reliable alternative, however, because it typically has a pore diameter of 20 micrometers, which is too large to provide meaningful filtration capacity for air filtration.
A good alternative would be the PM 2.5 filters that capture particulate matter of 2.5 micrometers in diameter, roughly one-tenth the size of coffee filters, which makes it more effective in capturing droplets and particulates when worn with the recommended reusable masks that have filter pockets.
Removing and Cleaning Masks, and Reusing Disposable Masks
Bear in mind that masks are intended to be a barrier against infectious particles and these particles tend to get stuck to the outside of a mask. Thus, avoid touching the surface of your mask. Adjust your mask using the strings or elastic, and remove it using the same, then immediately wash your hands thereafter.
Clean washable masks at the end of the day. Don’t use them multiple days in a row. Soak it in a 1/3 cup bleach to 1-gallon room-temperature water solution and subsequently rub vigorously, then thoroughly rinse it after and hang to dry.
NEVER reuse disposable masks. The shortages of personal protective equipment have prompted the implementation of reusing PPEs among healthcare workers at proper health protocols and strategies. However, this is discouraged among consumers.
The Thing About Masks with Valves
Valves on masks are intended for easier breathing but are not recommended particularly at the current pandemic. Vented or valved masks release your exhaled air directly into the outside air which defeats the purpose of masks, which is to block droplets of people to land on other people.
Some masks with valves, however, have their own filters. So, when you buy masks with valves, make sure to read the label and ensure that it has a filter that will stop droplets from passing through.
Hack: Wear a surgical mask over a valved mask to cover the vent.
Face shields can add an extra layer of protection as respiratory viruses such as the COVID-19 are known to be transmitted through the eyes. When wearing face shields, it is recommended to wear a mask under as small droplets in the air could be carried up under the shield and land on your eyes, nose, or mouth.
Social Distancing is Still Necessary Even When Wearing A Mask
Masks offer only one layer of protection and can sometimes be imperfect. You still need to stay 6 feet away from people outside your household and wash your hands frequently. The more layers of protection, the safer you make yourself and everyone around you.
Editor’s note on Masks and the Coronavirus:
This article is created to inform you of the new updates about the Coronavirus and masks. If you have questions regarding the update, please send us a message!Contact Us
We look forward to hearing from you all.
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