Can face masks protect you from the COVID-19 during the Coronavirus pandemic?
SARS-CoV-2 is transmitted from person to person via small respiratory droplets. These are generated when an infected person talks, coughs, snores, sneezes, or even exhales. These droplets can also land on any surface on any object. You could acquire the Coronavirus by touching your mouth, nose, or eyes after touching a surface or an object that had the virus on it. Though this is still not considered the main way that the virus spreads, it is another example of why protecting our faces with a mask, even to simply prevent us from touching our own nose and mouth, is important. But which mask should you wear? When choosing a mask, doctors tell us to focus on the materials, size, fit and breathability.
What type of mask should you use for the Coronavirus disease?
Types of masks for COVID-19 protection:
- Homemade Cotton Face Masks – This kind of mask offers a very low level of protection but it helps remind you not to touch your face. Selection of this type of mask is often a question of fashion. It’s a way to express yourself through the mask’s color, pattern, logo, as well as a way to show off your DIY ideas and skills. You can use any fabric you want and make your mask uniquely yours. Fashion aside, a homemade mask is an easy way to make sure you can keep yourself and others around you safe. While it is hard to prove the exact level of protection handmade masks offer us, one thing seems to be clear, masks with more layers are a little bit more effective as they block out small particles better than thin single-layer masks. It is also possible to add a pocket to hold a filter, like a carbon replaceable filter for example. It is also very important that masks are kept clean. Washing your face mask in 140–194 °F hot machine wash with laundry detergent kills almost any and all bacteria. Ironing your mask can also work because of the high temperature. One more thing to remember: shape matters! Your mask protects you better when it fits your face perfectly.
- N95 Respirator Mask – N95 respirators are designed to create a tight seal around the nose and mouth. When worn correctly, they can block over 95% of small airborne particles. Some even have as much as a 99% bacterial filtration efficiency (BFE). Respirators are the best at protecting both the wearer and the people around them. This kind of mask is made out of many layers of polypropylene fibers, which is what makes it so effective. The N95 is regulated by the CDC and NIOSH unless it is marketed for medical use, at which point the FDA will approve them as well. In response to the Coronavirus pandemic, the FDA changed their guidelines with an emergency use authorization (EUA) to allow NIOSH approved respirators to be used in healthcare circumstances.
- KF94 Face Mask – KF94 masks are the South Korean equivalent to the N95 mask. The “KF” in the name stands for “Korean filter” and it has a 94% filtration efficiency. As these types of masks are more widely available, they tend to cost less than N95s. A recent limited study has shown that the KF94 was comparable to the N95 in blocking SARS-CoV-2 particles. These masks may start to look more familiar as starting in February 2021, they are one of the types of masks required by the NBA for players, coaches and staff members to wear.
- KN95 Mask – KN95 particulate masks are also rated to filter 95% of particles and are regulated by the Chinese government (reg. GB2626-2006). The FDA also issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) authorizing the use of KN95s as a valid alternative to NIOSH approved masks. Another difference between KN95s and N95s is that the KN95s often use ear loops rather than an over the top of the head and behind the neck two strap configuration like the N95.
- 3-Ply Disposable Masks – 3-ply disposable masks are fluid resistant and provide the wearer protection against large droplets, splashes, or sprays of bodily or other hazardous fluids. They also protect others from the wearer’s respiratory emissions. They are more loose fitting than either N95 or KN95s, so provide a less reliable level of protection from inhaling smaller airborne particles. When marketed for use in healthcare scenarios, often called a surgical or medical 3-ply mask, they are regulated by the FDA and therefore provide better protection than a homemade mask.
Stay Safe and Wear a Mask
The best way to protect ourselves and our loved ones is through social distancing, mask wearing and practicing good hand hygiene. Select the mask that works best for you and the circumstances and stay safe!
At Community Attire, we are committed to helping you keep your communities safe and businesses running. We’ve written our safety blogs to help keep people aware and informed of the best safety practices for using PPE. We strongly encourage everyone to read the COVID-19 safety guidelines on the CDC website. Thank you for letting us help!