The Coronavirus pandemic has forced many countries worldwide to enact stringent social distancing measures.

To limit the spread of COVID-19, the World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended that people wear masks when out in public and social distancing is not possible. Despite the recommendation, there is still much uncertainty among the public over the effectiveness of masks.

Effectiveness of Face Masks 

Masks are designed to reduce the spread of respiratory droplets, which is a key factor in the transmission of coronavirus. By wearing a mask, you will reduce the number of viruses that spread from your nose and mouth. Studies suggest that wearing a mask will reduce the amount of infectious droplets you emit by roughly 65 percent, which is a significant reduction.

The Importance of Tightly-fitted Masks 

In order for a face mask to work properly, it must be perfectly fitted to the face and form a seal around the mouth and nose. Wearing a mask that does not fit properly is actually worse, as it exposes the user to contaminated air. The ideal way to ensure that face masks are properly fitted is to mold them around the specific face of the wearer. In general, masks made of cloth and layered masks will provide the best level of protection.

Types of Face Masks 

The most common types of masks are surgical masks, cloth masks, and N95 respirators.

Surgical Masks

Surgical masks are single-use face masks that are disposable after a single use. They are made of nonwoven fabric and often have a layer of plastic to protect the face from aerosols and saliva splashes. Surgical masks are intended to protect against droplets, splashes, and aerosolized particles, making them the most effective type of face coverings against the spread of coronavirus.

Cloth Masks 

Cloth masks are often made from cotton or other fabrics and consist of multiple pieces or layers. The effectiveness of cloth masks is highly dependent on how well it fits the face, as well as how thick the mask is. Multiple layers of cloth masks are more effective, as they will filter out more droplets.

N95 Respirators 

N95 respirators are the most effective type of face mask. They are made of plastic and synthetic materials and are designed to filter very small particles from the air. Unlike surgical and cloth masks, N95 respirators are not recommended for general public use, as they should be reserved for healthcare workers and other frontline workers who come into contact with sick or symptomatic patients.

Masking and Additional Protective Measures 

It is important to remember that a face mask should not be used as a sole means of protection against coronavirus. Along with masking, social distancing and good hygiene practices need to be observed to further reduce the risk of infection.

Benefits of Mask Use

When made of the right materials and properly worn, masks can reduce the risk of transmission from the wearer and limit the amount of virus that can be inhaled by the wear, reducing the risk of infection. Wearing a mask also encourages others to wear masks, as well as reducing the spread of aerosols.

Masks have been proven to be effective in reducing the risk of transmission of coronavirus, however they need to be used in conjunction with other protective measures such as social distancing and good hygiene practices. It is important that the mask fits properly and is made of the right material, such as cloth and layered masks, in order to ensure maximum protection.