Reading Time: 9 minutes
After the emergence of new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 at Wuhan in China in late 2019, this devastating infectious disease is spreading rapidly throughout the world, and still, there is no definite controlling measure that has been taken to stop this pandemic. However, one can stop its spreading risk and prevent its further growth by wearing masks every time they need to go outside especially in crowded places where social distancing is not possible to maintain.
So here we have come up with some essential factors and information including coronavirus masks types, protection level that it provides, and most importantly how and when to use it. CDC strongest recommends everyone including sick or healthy to wear cloth face masks where it is difficult to maintain 6 feet distancing from others such as in grocery stores.
This is because studies say that people can transmit this virus to others even if they don’t have any symptoms called asymptomatic or before they have any symptoms called presymptomatic. So, continue reading this article till the end to get up to date knowledge regarding masks protection during this current pandemic era and how to ensure the best possible protection for you and everyone.
How does the face masks work?
The coronavirus can easily spread through droplets of a COVID19 infected person whenever he or she coughs, sneezes, or talks in front of others. Here arise the importance and benefit of wearing a face mask which works as a protecting guard in your face.
A properly worn face mask guards your nose, and mouth totally against environmental pollutants and definitely against this new coronavirus. It prevents the virus filled droplets from entering inside your mouth and nose when you breathe or talk in front of an infected person.
Also if you have been diagnosed positive with this new coronavirus then also it will ensure that your virus filled droplets will not infect others. Hence, wearing a mask helps in slowing down the spreading of COVID19 disease.
Can face mask protect a person from the coronavirus risk?
A cloth face mask-wearing is solely not enough to block the coronavirus. However, this definitely increases the layers of your protection when followed along with other essential preventive guidance like washing hands too frequently, maintaining a social distancing of 6 feet from others.
This way it increases your protection strength from the coronavirus contraction risk to a great extent. However, wearing a face mask simply doesn’t mean that your risk of coronavirus has been eliminated totally.
Types of Face Masks for Coronavirus Protection
There are primarily three types of masks available currently for the protection against coronavirus growth risks such as homemade face masks, surgical masks, and N95 respirators. Out of them, these are divided into two categories based on the particular user group.
Face Masks for Health Care Workers
People who are working in a healthcare unit in any setting including doctors, surgeons, nurses, compounders, or any other medical assistance contain a higher risk of contracting coronavirus from the infected patients so for them masks that can give higher-level protection against the virus are important.
So, surgical masks and N95 respirators should be reserved for health care workers as well as first responders. This is very crucial because in the market there is a very limited supply of these masks. So as everyone cannot avail it so this must be reserved for people working in the healthcare unit by giving them first priority.
N95 Respirators- This particular mask fits tightly around the face. It is capable of filtering approx. 95% or even more of the smallest particles existing in the environment. However, for its optimal level working efficiency it must be perfectly fitted into your face.
Surgical Masks- Surgical masks usually remain of blue color with a white border. Unlike N95 respirators it remains loose around your nose and mouth area. It offers protection against large size droplets that come from the patient’s cough or sneezes. However, it is too loose to give protection against all germs. Also, it can’t give protection against tiniest particles that may contain this new coronavirus.
Face Masks for Non-Healthcare People
Homemade cloth face masks are best for non-healthcare people or people in the general population. This mask provides enough level protection against any virus filled droplets that come from any infected or suspected patients coughs or sneezes or especially when you are in an area where maintaining social distancing of 6 feet is not possible. While making your own homemade mask or cloth mask you should take care of below-mentioned points-
- As you are sewing the fabric yourself so you can make it the way it can provide you the best possible protection without hurting your ears or hair.
- You can sew the fabric ensuring that it remains tight around your face covering your face and nose or fold it around your hair ties keeping loop for ears
- If you don’t want to sew then simply tie the fabric around your face.
- You must use at least two layers of material.
- As per your wish, you can add a pocket for a filter. However, in that case, remove it before cleaning the mask.
- For better fitting add a copper or wire ribbon at the nose of the mask.
Benefits of Homemade Mask
The homemade masks have following benefits or advantages
- As homemade masks can be prepared with any material at home so just like other types of masks there is no limited supply issue persists with these masks.
- It ensures protection from people without any symptoms but internally having this virus disease to others as it prevents the transmission of the virus through their coughing, sneezing, or speaking.
- Though it does not provide high-level protection but surely best for them who are not wearing a mask at all.
- It is best for places where maintaining 6 feet of social distancing is not possible like in grocery soap.
Disadvantages of Homemade Face Masks
Along with many benefits the homemade face masks are associated with some disadvantages or risks including-
- Though homemade face masks offer a certain degree of protection but in the broader sense, it offers a false sense of security. This is because with comparison to surgical masks and N95 respirators it provides a very minimum level of protection.
- One study report conducted in 2008 says that the homemade face masks provide 50% less protection than the surgical masks and N95 respirators.
- The usage of homemade masks in no way reduces the necessity or importance of surgical masks and N95 respirators. For ensuring protection while wearing the homemade face masks it is important to maintain social distancing and proper hygiene practices.
Comparison of Filter and No Filter Masks
Both filter and non-filter masks have some pros and cons. The filter masks can be considered better as too many layers of fabric in it ensure that any virus or dust particles get stuck into layers instead of going out in the open environment and infect others. Similarly, it makes extra barriers for external tiny particles including viruses to prevent their entry inside the masks by filtering it.
However, too many layers make it difficult to breathe easily for the user which is a disadvantage that makes it harder to wear this mask for a prolonged period. On the other hand, no-filter face masks though do not give layers protection to filter the virus or other harmful particles but these masks are wearable for longer duration as it does not create difficulty in breathing.
It’s better for everyone to choose a facemask that is comfortable wearing so that one can wear it for a longer duration. While purchasing a filter mask for you check its filter material to ensure it doesn’t have something dangerous like fiberglass etc.
Steps to Make a No-Sew Face Mask
Follow the method given by the CDC to make a no-sew mask, enlisted below-
- First, take a bandanna or any other square sized cloth of 20 inches from both the sides.
- Now fold it in half.
- Make a big rectangle shape by folding the top third down and bottom third up.
- Then slide the rectangle with the help of elastic or two rubber bands until it turns 6 inches apart.
- Now fold the sides of the fabric that you are using to prepare your masks towards the middle and tuck its ends together.
- Wear this prepared mask on your mouth and check whether it is perfectly fitting or not. Don’t keep it loose or too tight.
While using a face mask it is important to ensure that how comfortably you can breathe in this along with its protection efficiency against the coronavirus risk. For this look for the mask material whether it is safe and breathable or not. If the material would be too hard to breathe it can create immense difficulty for people who are already suffering from certain respiratory health concerns.
Also, heavy breathing can even impact the working efficiency of a mask. Researchers say that masks with a funnel inner layer and cotton’s outer layer work well. Another study says that a face mask made up of a cotton T-shirt or pillowcase also works well in filtering certain germs because of its good stretching ability.
Based on researches different fabrics for making a face mask has been ranked below-
- Tea towel (two layers)
- Cotton mix fabric
- 100% cotton T-shirt (two layers)
- Antimicrobial pillowcase
- Standard pillowcase
Though tea towel has gained the highest ranking in the above list still researchers do not recommend to use this fabric as it is too hard for breathing comfortably.
Best Homemade Face Masks Filter
You may use some household items as a filter layer while making your homemade mask to ensure protection against coronavirus such as-
Studies say that HEPA filters with multiple layers block the smallest particles just like the N95 respirators. However, it has very tiny fibers that contain the risk to enter inside your lungs. So to eliminate this risk, sandwich the filter material between the cotton layers or any other woven fabrics. Avoid using any filter which contains fiberglass.
You can use some paper products in which you can breathe easily such as paper towels, coffee filters, and toilet paper.
Polypropylene Shopping Bag
This is another best filter material for your homemade face masks. For this, you can cut any polypropylene shopping bag into the proper size. This material has very soft fabric so you can easily insert this between the layers of mask. It is a washable material but must be air-dried in order to make it last longer.
How to Wear a Coronavirus Face Mask
In order to ensure the best possible protection from wearing a face mask, it is very crucial that you have a proper understanding of its right way of usage. Follow the below-mentioned steps while wearing a face mask-
- Wash your hands properly with soap and water at least for 20 seconds before touching your face mask
- Make sure there is no space left between your face and mask. Tuck the top edge of your mask around the bridge of the nose.
- In any condition, you should not feel uncomfortable inside your mask. Make sure that you can breathe easily. So if your mask feels too tight or uncomfortable to breathe then avoid using it and instead of that use an easily breathable mask.
- Don’t touch your face mask while wearing it. Only touch when you are about to take it out, that is after reaching your destination place.
- Wash your face mask immediately after removing it from the mouth.
- Don’t wear ever an unwashed mask that you have used previously.
How to use a surgical mask when you have developed COVID19?
Anyone who has developed COVID19 should stay at home to maintain the quarantine rules and regulations except when they need to take medical help, only then you should go out. If you are living with others make sure that you wear surgical masks especially at the time when your caregivers come near you. Also, wear your surgical masks when you have to visit your healthcare provider.
Keep in mind that the surgical mask itself is not enough to give protection against this new coronavirus infection but yes it traps the respiratory droplets in it hence reduces its spreading risk. Hence ensure protection for others who are in your surroundings from the coronavirus risk. Follow the below-mentioned steps while wearing a surgical mask-
- Wash your hands properly with soap and water or sanitize it with an alcohol-based sanitizer.
- Before wearing your surgical masks first check whether there is any tear or hole or not. If everything is fine then only it is suitable for usage.
- Now find the metal strip in your mask which is the top of the mask.
- Make sure the colored side of the masks faces outside for proper orientation.
- Keep the top side of the masks at the bridge of your nose by molding the metal strip according to the shape of your nose.
- Now properly loop the elastic bands behind your ears or tie the straight ties behind the head.
- Make sure this mask properly covers your mouth, nose, and chin by pulling it slightly at the bottom side.
- Avoid touching your mask when you are wearing this except when you have to remove it. However, if it is necessary to adjust your masks then make sure you clean your hands immediately afterward.
- While removing the masks avoid touching their front side as it might be contaminated. Only open the ties or unhook the elastic for removing it.
- Dispose of the mask immediately in a closed dust bin and clean your hands thoroughly afterward.
- You can easily avail of surgical masks in any drugstore or grocery stores or you can even order it online.
When should I wear a mask?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests everyone except children aging less than 2 years to wear a cloth face mask while going in public places especially where maintaining 6 feet social distance from others is highly impossible.
You must wear a face mask if you are ill and living with others including your pet as well. CDC recommends the caregivers to wear the face mask while they come in the close contact of the sick (COVID19 infected) people including while cleaning or disinfecting their room or while offering any other assistance to them.
Remember the fact that wearing just a face mask is not enough to offer complete safety and prevention of coronavirus infection still, it is one of the essential measures that you must follow without ignoring at any cost. We hope you get enough knowledge regarding the coronavirus masks types, protection level that it offers, and how and when to use it. Stay safe and ensure safety for everyone in your surrounding by wearing face masks as a responsible citizen.