Aside from effective protective measures laid down by health organizations, like the social and regular hand washing/sanitizing hygiene, wearing face masks is also an essential protective strategy. Face masks are simple, cheap, and keep you safe by decreasing your chances of contacting COVID-19 from an infected person.
Health organizations and agencies, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), encourage people of all ages to wear face masks when out in public. Since then, people have been using a different variety of masks such as respirators, surgical masks, and cloth masks to protect themselves.
Written below are the varieties of face mask that works best in reducing the transmission and spreading of COVID-19 whenever you're out in public:
These fit- and seal-tested respirators are made of tangled fibers that are extremely effective at filtering pathogens in the air. Any respirator that will be used must meet the proper filtration standards that have been set by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
Below are the examples of respirators and the size of the particle they can filter:
- N95 respirators can filter 95% of these (100 to 300 nm size) particles.
- N99 respirators can filter 99% of these (100 to 300 nm size) particles.
- N100 respirators can filter 99.7% of these (100 to 300 nm size) particles.
Surgical masks are of different types. Normally, they are disposable, single-use masks designed in a rectangular shape with pleats that expand to perfectly fit and cover your nose, mouth, and jawline. Also, they are made up of breathable synthetic fabric.
Surgical face masks don't have to meet up with the NIOSH filtration standards, unlike the respirators. They aren't mandatory to form an airtight seal against the part of your face that they cover.
Handmade or Do-it-yourself (DIY) cloth masks are a little effective at protecting the person who wears them. Because most of them have gaps near the nose, cheeks, and jawline where tiny droplets can still be inhaled, most of the fabric used is usually porous and can't restrain tiny droplets from being inhaled.
The CDC does recommend cloth face masks in place of N95 or KN95 face masks. However, cloth masks tend to be a little effective at filtering out small particles than the certified medical-grade counterparts such as respirators or surgical masks. But they still provide more protection than not wearing any face mask and can be improved with accurate construction, design, wear, and maintenance.
If a person is expected to be in close contact with others for a long period, a face mask is highly recommended. Different face masks have different effectiveness, it varies with their type and usage. In addition to face masks, people should also follow other key recommendations and measures, such as keeping a physical distance where possible and washing hands regularly.
Every mask has a different purpose and they are not equivalent. Therefore, the most suitable one depends on three factors: who you are, what you’re doing, and where you are.
N-95 respirators are capable of providing the maximum protection against the coronavirus - for the wearers and also for the people around them. But these should simply be used by health care workers in certain situations, such as those serving in close contact with COVID-19 patients. N-95 respirators are designed to filter out aerosols, not just droplets.
The aim of wearing a mask is to decrease the chance of droplet transmission. Disposable, medical-grade face masks and many washable cloth masks are pretty good at this. Hence it is recommended for every patient to wear a paper mask which is easily available and a good cloth mask when out in public. When worn properly, a cloth mask is sufficient for most people’s needs.