With the current COVID-19 situation in the Philippines and around the world, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has advised people to wear face masks in public and around others, as a safety measure against the Coronavirus, but how much protection do they offer against COVID-19? Here’s what you need to know about face masks and how they protect you against COVID-19.
How Do Face Masks Work?
Face masks have long been used as protection against the spread of many viruses before COVID-19. Face masks prevent the transmission of COVID-19 and other viruses by reducing the transmission via respiratory droplets.
Types of Face Masks
With many different types of face masks available out there, here’s what you need to know about each type and how effective these face masks are.
Surgical & Medical Masks
Surgical or medical masks are the most common types of masks that are used by the general public against COVID-19. Surgical masks are typically single-use masks that can filter out large cough or sneeze droplets, but are less effective against smaller droplets, as they only filter out about 60% of inhaled particles. However, research has shown that wearing these surgical or medical masks help reduce the transmission of respiratory diseases. Surgical masks should be discarded after every use.
N95 respirators are most effective against Coronavirus and other respiratory diseases. The N95 mask is able to filter out both large droplets and aerosols. Compared to surgical masks, these respirators filter out about 95% of inhaled air. However, as N95 masks may be in short supply and are mostly used by healthcare workers, using a surgical mask as an alternative. Following social distancing guidelines also helps reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Fabric or Cloth Masks
Fabric or cloth masks are becoming an increasingly popular choice, but could vary in their effectiveness depending on the material and number of layers. Cotton or cotton blend fabrics are recommended, while fabric masks with at least three layers are the most effective. One of the advantages of fabric masks is that they are reusable and more eco-friendly compared to the other face masks.
Precautions When Wearing Masks
When wearing a mask, it’s important to put it on correctly in order for them to work effectively. Here are a few things to keep in mind when putting on a face mask:
- Ensure your hands are clean when wearing and removing the mask.
- Avoid touching the mask once you’ve put on the mask.
- The mask should fully cover your nose, mouth and to under your chin.
- The mask should be snug, yet comfortable enough for you to breathe.
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