In the year 2020, the world was forced to accept a new norm: wearing face masks. The Covid-19 pandemic has changed life as we knew it and one of the most common things we hear when we leave the house is, “Don’t forget to wear your mask!”
As of 13th July 2021, the total number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 that has been reported to the World Health Organisation (WHO) is 187 086 096 cases worldwide. Hence, one of the ways officials are trying to fight against the virus is by wearing face masks.
Therefore, here’s an extensive guide on face masks and their role in stopping the coronavirus.
Types of face masks
Face masks are made of various materials, however, they can be categorised into 2 main types:
Disposable face masks
During this pandemic, disposable face masks have become commonplace. Some individuals prefer them over reusable cloth masks since they are more lightweight and handy, and they are generally necessary for medical appointments.
They’ve also been suggested for those who are particularly susceptible to Covid-19, since they must meet strict filtering requirements.
Here are the various types of disposable masks available in the market today:
A surgical mask is a disposable, loose-fitting item that forms a physical barrier between the wearer’s lips and nose and potentially harmful pollutants in the immediate surroundings. Although not all face masks are regulated as surgical masks, they are commonly referred to as such.
They are available in a variety of thicknesses, the most common one being the 3 ply face masks. These masks have the ability to protect you from liquid contact. These characteristics may also influence how readily you can breathe through the surgical mask and how well it protects you.
An N95 mask, also known as the N95 respirator, is a piece of respiratory protection equipment that is designed to provide a very close face fit and effective particle filtering.
It’s worth noting that the respirator’s edges are meant to create a seal around the nose and mouth. Surgical N95 respirators are often used in the healthcare sector.
This mask reduces the exposure of the user to particles such as aerosols and big droplets (only non-oil aerosols).
Reusable face masks
Single-use disposable face masks may be less expensive per piece, but reusable face masks can save you a lot of money in the long term. You don’t have to worry about disposing reusable face masks because they may be cleaned and reused as required.
Cloth face mask
A cloth face mask essentially is a mask made from fabrics. Since these masks are reusable, they can also be categorised as washable face masks. Some of these cloth masks come with a pocket in which you can place your filter.
You have more design options with fabric face masks, and you can always choose your favourite patterns and this encourages people to wear them.
There is also a new type of cloth face mask that is gaining popularity. These masks are made with antiviral fabrics, which are said to be more effective in keeping out viruses from entering one’s body.
ProXMask has a variety of cloth masks that you can choose from. For example, our antiviral face masks are made from antiviral technology, which works to inactivate viruses and kill bacteria.
How to wear a mask?
After getting a mask, you need to learn the proper way to wear them. There should not be any gaps between the mask and the nose, mouth, or chin. When you breathe out, you should feel warm air coming through the front of the mask.
You shouldn’t be able to feel air flowing out of the mask’s edges. Masks with a flexible nose strip assist in keeping air from escaping through the top and side of the mask. The way you use, store, and maintain your mask has an impact on how well it protects you.
To put on and remove your mask, follow these steps:
- Wash or disinfect your hands before and after putting on your mask.
- Cover your lips, nose, and chin with your mask.
- Use ear loops or tie them behind your head. Make sure it’s not too tight.
- Avoid touching your face mask while you’re wearing it.
- If you touch your mask by mistake, wash or disinfect your hands.
- Replace your mask with a clean one if it becomes damp or dirty.
- Untie the mask or raise the ear loops to remove it without contacting the front of the mask or your face.
- After removing your mask, wash your hands promptly.
- Place the used mask in a sealable bag until it can be disposed of or washed.
- Wash cloth masks according to the washing instructions on a regular basis.
What is double masking?
Double masking is when you layer one mask on top of another. This is usually recommended for areas where there are high numbers of Covid-19 cases.
According to research done by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), double masks can be highly efficient in limiting the transmission of COVID-19. However, this is only true if the double mask is worn correctly.
There are a few ways to double mask. The most common way is to wear a cloth mask over a surgical mask.
According to the CDC, the fabric mask should push the surgical mask’s edges on your face. To put it another way, the fabric mask should be snug enough to ensure that the surgical mask fits properly.
However, layers that make it difficult to breathe or block your eyesight should be avoided. Do consult your local healthcare specialist before following these methods.
When should I wear a mask?
Wearing a face mask is one of the most important steps to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. If Covid-19 is spreading in your community, it would be wise to always wear a mask when you step out of your house.
Should you wear a mask if you’re vaccinated?
Many countries across the globe have made it mandatory to wear a mask outdoors and in public places, such as airports, malls and other places with large public gatherings. As a safety precaution, this is required to be maintained even if you’re vaccinated.
Certain countries where the infection rate has decreased have relaxed their rules on face masks. That said, the move is being questioned by experienced scientists, researchers as well as the medical community.
It is advisable to keep a check on your local health guidelines regarding masking rules and follow them strictly.
Do we still need to wear face masks while social distancing?
Yes, you should still wear your mask even if you are practicing social distancing. Remember that it is hard to maintain the mandatory 6 foot social distancing rule, when you’re out in public places. Hence, the face mask will act as the backup barrier between you and the virus.
While wearing a mask will not fully prevent you from contracting COVID-19, it will significantly reduce your chances.
If you’re well, a mask can assist to prevent respiratory droplets from landing in your nose and mouth from someone who is sick. On the other hand, if you’re unwell, a mask can help protect others from getting infected.
Why are face masks important during Covid-19?
Exhalation causes the discharge of respiratory fluids in the form of droplets of various sizes. Viruses are carried by these droplets, which transmit infection.
Within seconds to minutes, the biggest drops settle out of the air. The tiniest very fine droplets, as well as the aerosol particles generated when these tiny droplets quickly dry, are so minuscule that they may float in the air for minutes to hours.
When you’re out in public or among other people, you should wear a mask. Masks function as a physical barrier between you and virus/bacterial particles, protecting you and others. Many individuals unintentionally infect others by going out and coughing or touching other people.
According to health expert, Dr Luke Padwick, there are two good reasons why face masks are important during Covid-19. Firstly, it reduces the chance of you contacting the virus by 95%. It also decreases oral transmission by stopping the virus from entering through your mouth or nose.
This will be particularly helpful if you touch a contaminated surface, as the mask acts as a barrier that keeps you from touching your face.
The image depicted above emphasises the necessity of wearing facial covers in public. If a person wears a face mask to protect themselves from you, and you wear your face covering mask to protect yourself from them, we can substantially reduce our chance of COVID-19 viral transmission.
Children and face masks
Children should continue to wear a face mask and keep a safe physical distance indoors from individuals they don’t live with or who may have COVID-19 until they are completely vaccinated.
With few exceptions, all children aged 5 and above may securely use face masks. However, children under the age of five should not be required to wear a mask. This decision is based on the child’s safety and general interest, as well as his or her ability to correctly utilise a mask with minimum help.
It’s understandable if your child is initially apprehensive about wearing a mask. Here are a few suggestions to make them feel more at ease:
- Talk about it in front of the mirror while wearing the face mask.
- Put a mask on a stuffed animal that the child likes.
- Decorate them to make them more unique and enjoyable.
- Show your child the images of other kids wearing them.
- Make a drawing of their favourite character from a book wearing a mask.
- To help your child get used to the face mask, practice wearing it at home.
Are cloth masks effective?
Yes, cloth masks are quite effective when it comes to fighting the spread of Covid-19.
Research conducted by the Physics of Fluids studied how liquid droplets are collected and filtered in cloth masks. Through this study, they concluded that three-layered cloth masks can filter droplets similarly to surgical masks, lowering exposure by 50 to 75% in both cases.
According to Steffen Eikenberry, a postdoctoral scholar at Arizona State University who has studied the effectiveness of masks, a typical cloth face mask is probably at least 50%” protective.
Additionally, researchers looked at the impact of state-level mask regulations in April and May in the United States and concluded that the mandatory rule of wearing face masks helped slowed the spread of COVID-19 cases by up to 2% each day.
This clearly shows that wearing masks is highly effective in curbing the pandemic.
Textile technology in face masks: Antiviral fabric
Most commercial masks simply prevent virus particles from entering your nostrils and mouth rather than killing them. Thus, a worn and abandoned mask can still act as a vector for the infection, spreading the virus throughout its fabric.
As a result, numerous start-ups and research organisations have begun producing antiviral fabric face masks. These face masks produced with this new textile technology are said to greatly reduce the virus’ impact.
This is because these fabrics are specifically designed to prevent bacteria and enveloped viruses from growing and persisting on textile surfaces.
Wearing a mask promotes a sense of community togetherness and joint effort in the battle against illnesses like coronavirus. So, don’t forget to get a mask and wear them whenever you leave your house. Keep yourself and your family safe by wearing a face mask!
Also read our other articles in the series:
- Antiviral fabric: Textile technology in face masks
- 3 Ply face masks: Are they effective in fighting Covid 19?
- Disposable Face mask and the environment
- Washable face mask: How to care for your mask?
- Fabric face masks: Are they as good as surgical masks?
- What are the best materials for face masks?
Yii Change Bong
Medical Officer, Proxmask
Dr Yii Change Bong is an occupational health doctor with demonstrated experience working with the Ministry of Health, Malaysia.
Having worked as a Medical Officer in Hospital Umum Sarawak and Sarawak General Hospital, Kuching for more than 5 years, he holds a strong presence in the fields of occupational health services, medical surveillance, and also in providing medical education.
In 2020 Dr Bong was the COVID-19 taskforce PPE liaison as the person in charge of personal protective equipment for frontline healthcare workers in the hospital during the early stages of the pandemic.