With various countries relaxing COVID-19 restrictions, people across the globe have a glimmer of hope that the worst might be over. However, this might not be the case until a vaccine is found. With economies opening up, living with some degree of COVID-19 spread is going to be the new normal for many of us. Across the globe, wearing a mask, carrying a sanitizer, and avoiding huge gatherings is going to be the norm at least for the next couple of months. Masks especially are going to play a huge part in protecting us from the virus. While some of you might find them uncomfortable, we at TABIIB would like to shed some light on the importance of face masks in our fight against this deadly virus.
Research About Face Masks
Initially, WHO had recommended face masks only for people who were sick, but now various governments across the globe have made it mandatory to wear a face mask in public.
For many years, there have been several pieces of research that have been studying the role of a face mask in reducing the spread of a virus. A 2013 research, studied the effects masks had on limiting the spread of the influenza virus when patients exhaled droplets containing the virus. This research concluded that masks reduced the number of virus droplets sick patients sprayed into the air. Another study identified that wearing a mask during the seasonal flu season led to a threefold reduction in how much virus people sprayed into the air. So, ideally according to research face masks can contain the spread of a virus.
According to the CDC, wearing a mask is a good idea because 25% of the people who suffer from the virus are asymptomatic, and play a major role in the spread of the virus. So making everyone wear a mask during a pandemic can be helpful in decreasing the spread of a virus.
Types Of Masks
1. Surgical Face Masks
Surgical face masks are fluid resistant masks that create a physical barrier between the wearer and the external environment. On a regular basis, surgical masks are used by doctors and surgeons in a surgical setting. However, based on the thickness and how they are worn, they could be effective in reducing the spread of airborne pathogens such as viruses.
According to the FDA, a surgical mask can be effective in blocking large-particles and droplets containing germs, bacteria, or viruses. However, surgical masks might not be entirely effective in blocking very small particles in the air. The effectiveness of the mask also depends on the fitting, as a badly fitted mask provides less coverage. So, if you can get hold of a surgical mask make sure you wear it correctly as a good fit will increase its effectiveness.
2. Respirators (N95 Masks)
Respirators are devices that effectively in filtering and stopping the spread of airborne particles. As the name indicates, these masks filter more than 95% of very small particles from the air. They are one of the most effective face mask designs in the market right now.
Currently, N95 masks are critical supplies for healthcare workers and other essential service providers. So as of now, if there is a limited supply in your country, leave these masks for the healthcare workers or essential service providers who have a higher chance of contamination.
3. Cloth Face Masks
While cloth masks are not as effective as medical masks, research shows that they do prevent the wearer from spreading the virus to others. A research identified that cloth masks actually reduced the spread of particles from infectious and asymptomatic individuals. For daily use, regardless of its effectiveness, cloth masks do add an additional barrier between the wearer and the external environment.
To Wear Or Not To Wear A Face Mask?
Since the research about COVID-19 is still in the initial stages, there are a lot of unknowns about this highly contagious virus. So, for now, wearing a mask and following other precautions such as social distancing and hand hygiene might just protect us better from the virus. Additionally, since there is no known danger in wearing a mask, it will act as an added protection against getting sick. However, if you do have any concerns or queries, it is best you consult a doctor.