Since the beginning of this year, “masks” have been one of the top searches across Google. One common query which everybody has is that whether masks are effective and which is the most effective kind of mask.
Face masks are generally of 3 types: Cloth masks, Surgical masks & N95 Respirators
When people are in public places, along with distancing and hygiene, it is advised that they wear a mask since it is not possible to maintain a 6 feet distance always. Cloth masks prevent the spread of the virus to a considerable extent. These masks are recommended for the public rather than N95 respirators which are needed for frontline health workers. Cloth masks can be easily made at home at a low cost. Take two rectangular pieces of cloth and place them together. Insert elastic or rubber bands in both the sides and stich the cloth on the sides. Remember to change a cloth mask once it gets wet. While wearing and removing them, make sure to not touch the area which covers the mouth and nose. Wash your hands before and after wearing them. Although they provide less protection than surgical or n95 masks, it is known that they reduce the risk of transmission by some degree. Cloth masks can also be used in combination with a face shield for better protection. The Centres for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) has suggested any covering and advised everyone to wear cloth masks for protection from asymptomatic patients. So these are probably the most advisable for the public till now.
Surgical masks are disposable ones which protect us from sprays, large particle droplets and prevent the transmission of potentially infectious respiratory secretions. Surgical masks vary in design but usually they are rectangular in shape and blue in colour. The masks have a metal strip to adjust over the nose and are tied to the face with elastics at both sides. Although they are useful in protecting from the virus, there is an environmental hazard attached to it because these are disposable single use masks. So they contribute to landfill medical waste.
N95 Respirators are found to be the most effective in protecting against the virus since it can prevent the transmission of small particles by 95 percent. This includes virus and bacteria. The masks are usually circular or oval in shape and fit to the face very tightly. They must have the right fit because if they do not fit properly they can’t give full protection. These do not fit properly on people with facial hair and children. In a recent study it has been found that the masks can be re used after heating them in a covered pot or rice cooker for 30 minutes at 65 degree Celsius. The use of N95 is usually not very advisable to the public because of some reasons. First of all its not very comfortable to wear for a longer period of time. Secondly it is required for medical and frontline workers. So its very important that they remain in stock. A recent factor which emerged is that the valves on these respirators can be a risk factor and may not prevent the transmission of droplets entirely.
Apart from masks one needs to follow basic hygiene rules. Washing hands with a soap for atleast 20 seconds in a correct manner is extremely important as suggested by the World Health Organization (WHO). The use of hand rubs and sanitizers with alcohol content is also advisable. Physical distancing of 6 foot is to be maintained. The most effective way to prevent oneself is to avoid any kind of gathering or crowds.