Knowing the right kind of coronavirus mask to use is very important. This is because there are a lot of masks currently in circulation and it’s very critical that you know the right one to purchase to either protect yourself from getting infected or infecting others.
Towards the tail end of 2019, a novel coronavirus emerged in China. Since that time, it has quickly spread throughout the world. This novel coronavirus is called SARS-CoV-2 and the disease that it causes is known as COVID-19.
Furthermore, while some with COVID-19 have a mild illness, other people may experience difficulty breathing, pneumonia, and even respiratory failure. According to WHO, older individuals and those with underlying health conditions have a higher risk of serious illness.
Again, you may have heard a lot recently about using coronavirus masks to prevent COVID-19. In fact, according to this study done recently, it was found that Google searches related to face masks increased in Taiwan because of the country’s first imported case.
Confusions on the kind of coronavirus mask you should use at this time, questions like are these face masks effective? when should I wear them? are going through the minds of a lot of people. A lot of people are either using the wrong face masks or wearing the right ones wrongly.
Continue reading to learn the answers to this question and more.
The Three Primary Types of Face Masks
To begin with, when you hear about face masks for COVID-19 prevention, it’s generally of three types:
- homemade cloth face mask
- surgical mask
- N95 respirator
Thus, let’s explore each of them in a little more detail in this segment of this article.
Homemade Cloth Face Masks
The first kind of face mask we’ll talk about is the homemade Cloth face masks. To prevent the spread of the virus from people without symptoms, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is now advising everyone to wear cloth face masks, like homemade face masks, while in public places where it’s hard to maintain a 6-foot distance from other people. Apart from this recommendation, you are still supposed to continue to observe social distancing and proper hygiene practices.
Some of these recommendations include:
- Wear cloth face masks in public settings. This should be observed especially in areas of significant community-based transmission, like pharmacies and grocery stores.
- Also, don’t put cloth face masks on children below the age of 2, people who have difficulty breathing, unconscious, or are unable to remove the mask on their own.
- Instead of surgical masks or N95 respirators, use cloth face masks rather than. This is because these critical supplies must be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders.
- Again, healthcare professionals should exercise extreme caution when using homemade face masks. Preferably, these masks should be used in combination with a face shield that covers the entire front and sides of the face and extends to the chin or below.
Very importantly, wash homemade cloth masks after every use. When you remove them, be careful not to touch your eyes, nose, and mouth. Wash your hands with soap and running warm water immediately after removing them.
Benefits of Homemade Face Masks
Here are some of the benefits of using a homemade face mask:
- Because cloth face masks can be made at home from common materials, they are unlimited in supply.
- Also, they may reduce the risk of people without symptoms transmitting the virus through speaking, coughing, or sneezing.
- Again, they’re better than not using any mask and offer some protection, especially in places where social distancing is hard to maintain.
Risks of Homemade Face Masks
Despite having a few benefits, there are still risks homemade face masks come with. Some of these risks are:
1. False Sense of Security.
To begin with, homemade face masks offer some degree of protection. However, they offer a lot less protection than surgical masks or respirators. According to The National Center for Biotechnology Information, one 2008 study indicated that homemade face masks might be half as effective as surgical masks and up to 50 times less effective than N95 respirators.
2. Using Them Doesn’t Replace or Reduce The Need for Other Protective Measures.
Homemade face masks do not reduce or replace the need for other protective measures. Thus, proper hygiene practices and social distancing are still the best methods of keeping yourself safe.
To begin with, surgical masks are expendable, loose-fitting face masks that you can use to cover your nose, mouth, and chin. Usually, they are typically used to:
- protect the person wearing it from sprays, splashes, and large-particle droplets
- stop the spread of potentially infectious respiratory secretions from the wearer to other persons
Furthermore, surgical masks can have different designs. However, the mask itself is often flat and rectangular in shape and has pleats or folds. The top of the mask has a metal strip that can be formed to your nose.
Again, elastic bands or long, straight ties help hold a surgical mask in place as you wear it. You can either loop them behind your ears or tie them behind your head.
Unlike the surgical masks, the N95 respirator is a more tight-fitting face mask. According to the CDC, in addition to splashes, sprays, and large droplets, this respirator can also filter out 95 percent of very small particles. Viruses and bacteria are part of these particles.
Furthermore, the respirator itself is generally circular or oval in shape and is designed to form a tight seal to your face. There are elastic bands in place to help hold it to your face firmly. There are some types that may have an attachment called an exhalation valve. This can help with breathing and the buildup of heat and humidity.
Also, N95 respirators are not one-size-fits-all. Actually, before use, they must be fit-tested to make sure that a proper seal is formed. This is because if the mask doesn’t seal effectively to your face, you won’t receive the appropriate protection.
Thus, after being fit-tested, N95 respirator users must continue to perform a seal check each time they put one on. Again, it’s also important to note that a tight seal can’t be achieved in some groups. Children and people with facial hair are in this category.
Can Wearing a Coronavirus Mask Protect You From COVID-19?
The SARS-CoV-2 spreads from person to person through little respiratory droplets. These droplets are formed when a person with the virus exhales, coughs, or sneezes. Thus, you can contract the virus if you breathe in these respiratory droplets.
In addition, respiratory droplets that contain the virus can land on various objects or surfaces. When you touch a contaminated object or surface and then touch your eyes, nose, or mouth, you can become infected.
Homemade face masks
You can use homemade face masks as your coronavirus mask. However, they only offer a small degree of protection and might help prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2 from asymptomatic people.
Furthermore, the CDC recommends that you use them in public settings, as well as practicing social distancing and proper hygiene.
N95 respirators are much better than homemade cloth masks. They can protect you from contact with smaller respiratory droplets, like those containing SARS-CoV-2. However, the CDC currently doesn’t recommend its use outside of healthcare settings.
There are a variety of reasons for this. Some of these reasons are:
- For appropriate use, N95 respirators should be fit-tested. This is because a poor seal can lead to leakage, reducing the effectiveness of the respirator in the process.
- Because of their tight fit, they can become uncomfortable and stuffy. This is why it is difficult to wear for long periods of time.
- Currently, the worldwide supply of N95 respirators is limited. This makes it critical that healthcare workers and first responders have ready access to them.
Other Effective Ways To Prevent COVID-19
Very importantly, there are also other effective ways besides using face masks to prevent becoming ill with COVID-19. These include:
1. Wash Your Hands.
The first tip we’ll talk about here is washing your hands. It is another measure you can observe apart from putting on a coronavirus mask. Make sure to wash your hands often with soap and warm running water. However, if this isn’t available, CDC recommends that you use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that has at least 60 percent alcohol.
2. Avoid Touching Your Face or Mouth.
Avoiding touching your face is another measure you can observe apart from putting on a coronavirus mask. This is something we should all take seriously because touching our faces or mouths when we haven’t washed your hands can transfer the virus to these areas and potentially make you sick.
3. Maintain Distance.
Next on our list is maintaining distance. It is also another measure you can observe apart from putting on a coronavirus mask. Endeavor to avoid close contact with people who are ill. Also, if you’re around someone that’s coughing or sneezing, try to stay at least 6 feet away from the individual. Don’t try to take any chances as these are some of the coronavirus symptoms.
4. Don’t Share Personal Items.
Also on our list of prevention tips is to avoid sharing your personal items. It is another way you can prevent COVID-19 apart from putting on a coronavirus mask. This is because sharing items like eating utensils and drinking glasses can potentially spread the virus.
5. Cover Your Mouth Whenever You Sneeze or Cough.
Another preventive measure you can observe apart from putting on a coronavirus mask is to try to cough or sneeze into the crook of your elbow or into a tissue. Be sure to dispose of any used tissues immediately after you use them.
6. Stay Home If You’re Sick.
This might be difficult to observe especially if you’re not one used to staying indoors. However, if you’re already ill, try your best to stay at home until you fully recover.
7. Clean Surfaces.
Again, another prevention tip is using household cleaning sprays or wipes to clean high-touch surfaces like countertops, doorknobs, and keyboards. It is also another way to prevent COVID-19 instead of using a coronavirus mask.
8. Keep yourself informed.
Furthermore, the CDC continuously updates information on Coronavirus symptoms and other Coronavirus related areas as it becomes available. Also, the WHO publishes situation reports daily.
How To Use A Surgical Mask If You Have COVID-19
If you have symptoms of COVID-19, do well to stay at home. Don’t step out of the house except to receive medical care from the health centers. Again, if you live with others, or are visiting a healthcare provider, wear a surgical mask if you can get one.
Furthermore, remember that while surgical masks don’t protect against infection with SARS-CoV-2, they can help trap infectious respiratory droplets. This can be a very important tool in helping to prevent the spread of the virus to others in your surroundings.
Thus, how do you properly use a surgical mask? Follow these steps below:
- Make sure you clean your hands. You can do this by either washing with soap and water or by using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Before you put the mask on, inspect it for any holes or tears.
- Then, locate the metal strip in the mask. This is at the top of the mask.
- Orient the mask in such a way that the colored side faces outward, or away from you.
- Put the top part of the mask on the bridge of your nose, molding the metal strip to the shape of your nose.
- Loop the elastic bands behind your ears or tie the long carefully, straight ties behind your head.
- Pull the bottom of the mask down, making sure that it covers your nose, mouth, and chin.
- Avoid touching the mask as you’re wearing it. However, if you must touch or adjust your mask, be sure to clean your hands immediately afterward.
- For you to take off the mask, unloop the bands from behind your ears or undo the ties from behind your head. Avoid touching the front of the mask, because it may be contaminated.
- Dispose of the mask in a closed garbage bin promptly, cleaning your hands thoroughly afterward.
Should I Wear A Coronavirus Mask If I’m Taking Care Of A Person Who May Have COVID-19?
There are steps you can take with regards to surgical masks, gloves, and cleaning if you’re caring for someone at home that has COVID-19.
Try to do the following:
- Isolate them in a separate area of the house away from other people. Ideally, provide them with a separate bathroom too.
- There should be a supply of surgical masks that they can wear, especially if they’re going to be around other people.
- Because of difficulty in breathing, some people with COVID-19 may not be able to wear a surgical mask. With this in mind, the CDC suggests that if this is the case, plan to wear one when you’re helping to care for them in the same room.
- Also, the CDC recommends that you use disposable gloves when handling soiled laundry. Throw the gloves away in a closed garbage bin after using them and wash your hands immediately.
- Frequently clean your hands using soap and running water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Try as much as you can not to touch your eyes, nose, or mouth if your hands aren’t clean.
- Again, don’t forget to clean high-touch surfaces such as countertops, doorknobs, and keyboards every day.
Firstly, the CDC recommends that you wear cloth face coverings, such as homemade face masks, in public settings where it’s hard to maintain a 6-foot distance from others.
Also, cloth face masks should be worn while continuing to practice social distancing and proper hygiene. Keep surgical masks and N95 respirators for hospitals and healthcare workers.
Again, N95 respirators can protect against infection with SARS-CoV-2 when you use them appropriately. People who use N95 respirators need to be fit-tested to make sure the respirator seals effectively.
Very importantly, a surgical mask will not protect you from contracting SARS-CoV-2. However, it can help to prevent you from spreading the virus to other people.
In addition, only wear a surgical mask if you have COVID-19 and need to be around others. You can also wear it if you’re caring for someone at home that can’t wear one. It’s very important that you only wear a surgical mask in the situations mentioned above.
Currently, there is a shortage of surgical masks and respirators. Thus, healthcare workers and first responders urgently need them.
Additionally, if you have unused surgical face masks, you can donate them by contacting your local hospital or fire department. You can also donate them by checking with your state health department.
Finally, make sure you observe proper hygiene at this time. Without this, using a coronavirus mask may not be as effective as it should be. Try as much as possible to observe maintain a 6-foot distance from others. Also, if you think you have symptoms, isolate yourself, and closely monitor your symptoms closely. Do well to keep in touch with a healthcare worker in this period too.