With the CDC continuing to monitor the spread of Covid-19 closely, wearing a face mask is still recommended for vaccinated and unvaccinated people. CDC additionally recommends the usage of face masks and distancing, particularly in public locations and gatherings.
Wearing face masks is an effective way to prevent the spread of Coronavirus. However, various face masks are in the market, each designed differently; finding a recommended one can be difficult. Not all masks are made equally.
From research conducted, medical-grade and cloth face masks reduce the spread of covid-19 by 80%. But, with multiple masks option in the market today, how do you find the best-recommended mask to prevent the spread of Covid-19? Are there specific masks designs to go for? Before buying, what factors do you check?
What mask is recommended to use during the Covid-19 pandemic?
Not all masks are made equally. So, finding the best masks depends on your locality, which you are, and your profession or activities. When narrowed down to functionality, some masks are better than others.
N-95 Type Masks
The N-95 respirators are the most effective mask for use but are recommended for health workers and first responders to filter droplets and aerosol. The “N” means it isn’t oil resistant. Meaning the N-95 masks cannot be used in oil droplets environment. It traps 95% of particles which is around 0.3 microns. The N-95 masks are created from fibers woven with an electrical charge that traps errant particles.
They are best in filtering small and large particles, thus disposable respirators or facepiece respirators. The N-95 masks are available in various sizes and shapes to accommodate different face shapes.
The CDC also recommends other types of respirators that either meet or exceed 95% efficacy level. That includes R99, N100, P95, P100, R95, and P95 masks. The N-95 shortage has an emergency use authorization and is approved by NIOHS.
KN95 facepiece respirators
The kN95 facepiece respirators are certified by Chinese Standards and are proved to be 95% effective in capturing and filtering out 0.3-micron particles. However, they somehow differ from N-95 masks. They have been approved for emergency use in multiple healthcare settings, thus recommended during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Europe’s FFP2 “Filtering facepiece respirator.”
Europe’s FFP2 mask is proven to be 94% effective against airborne diseases. The FFP1 and FFP3 are 80% and 99% effective, respectively, against airborne diseases. The”P” means the face mask is oil resistant therefore suitable for use in an oil droplet environment.
Most European countries like Germany and France have recommended the use of FFP2 masks to help prevent the spread of covid-19. The FFP2 is convenient for use in all public places, including workstations and traveling. When buying such masks, always look for a filtration guarantee-logo to ensure its originality.
Face shields have increased productivity. That is because it’s a good option for dragon breath, foggy glasses, and sweaty masks. You may have probably met someone with a face mask but are they the best to prevent coronavirus spread?
What is a face shield?
Practitioners have used medical face shields in various medical applications. They are now common face masks, especially for practitioners handling first covid-19 responders. These masks are used in procedures like surgical operations and bone fragments to prevent bodily fluids and blood from entering the mouth, eyes, and nose.
A face shield is a Plexiglas panel or curved plastic connected to a headband to be worn over. It is designed to cover the face. It fits securely that there is no gap between the forehead and the band. The coverage offered by face shields is vital, especially during this pandemic, as the virus enters the body through the face.
From a 2014 study, face shields are proven to reduce exposure to influenza-infused aerosol by 96% immediately after cough. It also minimized respirator surface contamination by 97%. So, yes, face shields are effective in reducing coronavirus spread. Though it protects the user’s face, the droplets can get out once you cough because the face shield stays away from the face.
However, the CDC does NOT recommend face shield use as an alternative for a homemade cloth mask or daily activities. But, if you choose to wear a face shield in gatherings, consider wearing a face mask underneath the face shield and focus on maintaining social distance. This will be more effective as face shields are open at the bottom.
Also, CDC recommends going for face shields that cover the face wholly and reach below the chin. That is best if you are not wearing a face mask. .
Medical Procedure/ Surgical / disposable Masks
Surgical masks are single-use masks designed not to be washed. They are not cloth made; thus, the term ‘single-use.”These are the most common masks sold through large retail stores and online. They are different from other medical masks. If you work in an area where the mask can get dirty or wet quickly, disposable masks are the best option.
Homemade Cloth masks
Homemade cloth masks are the most commonly used masks today by the public. But, its effectiveness relies on the type of fabric and cloth layers used. They are proven to be at least 26% effective.
According to CDC, a piece of cloth with numerous layers and high thread counts has superior performance than a piece of cloth with lower thread counts. In fact, it is effective and filters almost 50% of fine particles.
A September study examined polyester, silk, cotton to repeal when used as mask inserts or in masks. Silk face covering was found to repel droplets in the spray test. They summarized that silk was more breathable and re-usable after cleaning compared to other materials.
A lot of people have been seen wearing two masks. For instance, wearing a surgical with a cloth mask on top is at least 91 % effective in removing particles. It is also recommended to use surgical masks with a face shield to be more effective.