With Coronavirus cases on the rise in the United States, following CDC recommendations for staying safe is essential. Many towns, cities, and states are mandating that masks are worn when in public. When practicing social distancing, it is recommended that you stay 6 feet away from others to reduce the risk of breathing in their respiratory particles. If you are able to stay 6 feet apart, the mask provides an additional barrier. Wearing a mask benefits the wearer and surrounding people. The virus can be spread through respiratory droplets; to limit contact with the virus or to decrease the spray of particles, masks are a basic necessity. Especially for asymptomatic carriers, masks provide protection for others around them.
More retailers are selling varieties of masks than ever before. Antimicrobial masks, copper masks, neck gaiters, N95 respirators, cloth masks, and more are available to customers. Due to the shortage of N95 respirators, it is recommended that these masks are not used so that they are available for medical professionals and first responders.
The World Health Organization has published recommendations for masks. It is essential that masks are designed to fit closely on your chin, nose, and cheeks. They also recommended that the ideal masks contain three layers. When looking for masks, take into account the fabric, fit, and breathability. The tightness of the fibers, like 100% cotton or jean material, is important. According to this NPR article, hold your mask towards a light and if you can easily see the outline of the fibers, it would not be as effective.
Fabric masks should have multiple layers in order to provide protection against small particles. A popular design consists of two layers with a pocket for a filter in between. NPR discusses using polypropylene as the material for the filter. Oly-fun is an example of a brand of polypropylene. The electrostatic charge in the fabric traps incoming and outgoing droplets. Based on recommendations from May Chu, clinical professor at the University of Colorado in the school of public health, and Christopher Zangmeister, the article does not recommend using coffee filters as a filter as it can be hard to breathe through. Instead, one ends up breathing around the filter. Two tissues folded together also can provide protection as a filter. Folds and pleats in masks allow for more airflow through masks. As mentioned previously, the fibers of the fabric should be tight in order to protect against particles. Neck gaiters provide less chance for air to escape through the sides of the mask. Therefore, they can be a good option. Avoid masks with a valve in the front. The valve releases air as someone breathes out. Therefore, this does not protect the people around you. Here are some suggestions from NBC on fabric face masks to purchase.
Antimicrobial masks provide self-cleaning benefits to keep the mask in good condition. They help to prevent bacteria from building up and to reduce odors. Copper masks are one example of an antimicrobial mask. Copper kills bacteria and viruses on contact. NBC reports that Richard Martinello, professor of infectious diseases at Yale School of Medicine, remarked on how there is limited information about the effectiveness of antimicrobial masks. He discusses how a copper mask would need to have copper intertwined in each fiber to be particularly effective. This would limit breathability and would be expensive. NBC provides some suggestions for antimicrobial masks.
Surgical masks were initially in short supply. They have become more readily available as the pandemic has progressed. Some are made of paper while others are made of polypropylene. These masks are effective in blocking the wearer's respiratory droplets. This study showed that the surgical masks do not block most small particles from penetrating the filter.
Regardless of what mask you choose, it is essential to keep masks clean. Cloth masks should be washed daily with soap and hot water. Surgical masks should be thrown out after use. While masks help to protect you and others, following the other protocols like washing hands and staying 6 feet apart is essential for staying safe. Also, remember not to touch your face or the mask once it has been put on. Otherwise, your hands may pick up the particles from the mask.
We, at Cold FAid, are masking up with you! Stay safe and keep doing your part.