The onset of the Coronavirus pandemic changed the lives of people around the world; Covid-19 has required the implementation of strict safety measures, such as the use of masks, in order to limit the spread of infection and to protect the public health.
The use of masks, while not infallible, has become one of the most reliable and effective methods by which to slow the transmission of the virus. In this article, we will examine the various types of masks available, their advantages and disadvantages, and other key considerations in the effort to protect yourself and others from Covid-19.
What is Masking?
Masking is a prevention tool that covers the mouth and nose of a person, filtering out particles from the air and helping to prevent the spread of infectious particles from an infected person to other individuals or surfaces. Masks can come in a variety of styles and sizes, and the type of mask used can affect its effectiveness in protecting from Covid-19 transmission. Proper use and disposal of masks can also further reduce the risk of infection.
Types of Masks
There are several different types of masks available to provide protection from Covid-19, some of which include:
Cloth masks – Cloth masks are non-medical masks made from tightly-woven, breathable fabric such as cotton. These masks are generally machine-washable and can be used multiple times.
Disposable masks – Disposable masks are single-use masks intended for use only once and then properly disposed of. Disposable masks are typically made from paper or other non-woven materials and are often used by healthcare professionals in medical settings.
N95 respirators – Unlike cloth and disposable masks, N95 respirators are made of thick, tightly-woven fabrics that are designed to filter airborne particles. N95 respirators must be fitted to your face and approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in order to provide the most reliable protection.
Benefits of Masks
When worn properly, masks can offer a number of benefits in the effort to protect yourself and others from Covid-19. These include:
• Limit the spread of droplets and aerosols – Wearing a mask helps to limit the spread of droplets and aerosols – the primary carriers of the virus – which limits the chances of someone coming into contact with the virus.
• Keep your hands away from your face – Wearing a mask helps to remind you to not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth – areas where the virus can enter the body.
• Provide peace of mind – Wearing a mask can provide peace of mind in social situations, especially in areas with high Covid-19 case rates.
Disadvantages of Masks
While masks offer a great deal of protection when used properly, there are some disadvantages to using a mask that should also be considered:
• Lack of breathability – Masking can often feel uncomfortable and cause some people to feel suffocated. This can be particularly true for those with underlying respiratory conditions.
• Increased heat and moisture – Masks can cause a person to feel hotter, and trapped moisture can create an ideal environment for bacteria to grow. This can lead to skin irritation or infection.
• Difficulty communicating – Wearing a mask can make it difficult to hear and understand people speaking, potentially leading to miscommunication.
Proper Use and Disposal of Masks
In order to get the most effective use out of your masks, proper use and disposal techniques should be followed. These include:
• Ensure a snug fit – A mask should fit snugly against the face and not allow any gaps between the mask and face or have an unfiltered vent.
• Choose a quality mask – Lower quality masks may not provide the same level of protection, so choose a quality mask that meets the standards of the mask you are using.
• Wash reusable masks regularly – Reusable masks should be washed regularly according to manufacturer instructions.
• Do not touch the front of the mask – Touching the front of your mask can contaminate it, so you should avoid touching the front of your mask.
• Do not reuse disposable masks – Disposable masks should only be used once and then disposed of properly.
In addition to proper use and disposal of masks, the following considerations should be factored into any efforts to protect yourself and others from Covid-19:
• Wear other protective equipment – Along with a mask, gloves and other protective equipment should be worn in order to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.
• Wash hands and disinfect surfaces – Effective hand-washing and the disinfection of frequently-touched surfaces can further reduce the risk of spreading the virus.
• Follow social distancing guidelines – Social distancing guidelines, including avoiding large gatherings and maintaining a distance of at least 6 feet from others, should be followed in order to limit the spread of Covid-19.
The use of masks has become one of the most effective methods by which to protect from Covid-19 infection. Wearing the right mask, properly fitted, can help to limit the spread of droplets and aerosols from an infected person to other individuals. As well, proper use and disposal of masks, along with washing hands and disinfecting surfaces, and following social distancing guidelines, can further limit the spread of the virus. Mask use, while not infallible, can help in the effort to protect yourself and others from Covid-19.