Face masks have become a familiar sight over the past year as we are all working together to overcome and manage the pandemic. With so many types of masks available on the market, it has become difficult to discern which ones to wear.
It is important for you and the safety of others to evaluate whether your face mask is offering adequate protection.
Three ply surgical masks have been used by doctors and surgeons before the pandemic outbreak. Surgical masks tend to be loose fitting which compromises their ability to fully prevent the spread of aerosol particles in the air. While providing some protection from large particle droplets in the air, they do not prevent the spread of smaller droplets. Surgical masks are made for a one time use only. It’s important that you dispose of them safely, as they can become a biohazard if carrying virus droplets.
Fabric face masks
Fabric face masks are probably the most common type of PPE used these days. They are available at most supermarkets, pharmacies, stores and online. They are a less expensive and convenient option because they are reusable unlike surgical masks. You can wash them – ideally at 140°F after each use and wear them again..
The good thing about having a variety of fabric face masks to choose from is that you can find the right design, fit and shape for you. The drawback is that it can get a little confusing when you just want a good mask that will do the job.
When it comes to protection and choosing a safer fabric mask, look out for one that has at least two layers of tightly woven but breathable fabric.
The CDC now recommends double masking for the optimal protection
Double masking refers to wearing a three-ply surgical mask covered by a three-ply cloth cotton mask. The CDC conducted experiments to assess ways of improving the fit of medical procedure masks. They found that fitting a cloth mask over a 3 ply surgical procedure mask significantly enhanced the level of protection for the wearer and others. As new variants of COVID 19 have arrived that are more easily transmissible, it has become even more important to step up your protection.
Face masks N95
According to most health agencies like the CDC- Center of Disease Control the N95 masks shouldn’t be worn by the public. N95 respirator masks are intended for the use of professionals in healthcare and other environments where there is a high risk of aerosol transmission. These professionals are trained on how to use these masks correctly. There is a specific procedure that needs to be followed when donning, and there are certain rules that need to be followed in order to use and dispose of them correctly.
Since the vast majority haven’t undergone this kind of training, it means that by using an N95 mask they are putting both themselves and those around them at risk.
Homemade face masks
Homemade masks have also become very popular. While these masks haven’t been tested, a recent study confirmed that homemade masks can fit better, be more tightly sewn and constructed more solidly than some factory produced ones. If you sew your own mask, here are a few tips on how to enhance your mask protection..
Make sure to use non-stretchy fabric.
Make sure it has multiple layers! Two layers minimum.
Make sure you sew the layers tightly together to avoid droplets escaping through the material.
Make sure it’s comfortable. It shouldn’t slip around or be too tight. A snug fit will lower the need for you to touch your face.
Measure your face and tailor it specifically for your face. If you wear glasses, you can add a wire on your nose to prevent your glasses from steaming up.
Cover a surgical mask with your homemade cloth mask or sew a pocket into your cloth mask for a filter.
Here are a few do’s and don’t from CDC when it comes toshopping for a mask that will provide appropriate protection.
- Have a minimum of 2 layers of breathable fabric.
- Completely cover your nose and mouth .
- Have a nose wire to prevent air from leaking out of the top of the mask.
- Fit snugly against the sides of your face and doesn’t have gaps.
- Are made of fabric that makes it hard to breathe, for example, vinyl.
- Have exhalation valves or vents which allow virus particles to escape.
- Are intended for healthcare workers, including N95 respirators.