Face Masks
As a disposable particulate respirator, it is intended to help reduce wearer exposure to certain airborne particles including those generated by electrocautery, laser surgery, and other powered medical instruments. As a surgical mask, it is designed to be fluid resistant to splash and spatter of blood and other infectious materials.

Face Masks

Do
Face Masks work? Types and effectiveness.

 

Face masks of different types
have been in demand ever since the coronavirus outbreak became a global
pandemic and as the pandemic shows no sign of ending soon, more and more
people are choosing to wear face masks. 

World Health
Organization (WHO), suggested that masks were mandatory only for the sick, not
the healthy. However, many different countries as well as Kenya have started to
come around to masks as they have proven to slow down the spread of the
virus in places such as Austria.  Apart from health workers, security
officers and cashiers in supermarkets, regular commuters and people who still
have to work every day using matatus and other public transport have started
wearing face masks in public. 

The primary
benefit of covering your nose and mouth is that you protect others. While there
is still much to be learned about the coronavirus, it appears that many people
who are infected are shedding the virus – through coughs, sneezes and other respiratory
droplets – for 48 hours before they start feeling sick. And others who have the
virus – up to 25%, 
according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Director Dr. Robert Redfield — may never feel symptoms but may still play a
role in transmitting it. That’s why wearing a mask even if you don’t feel sick is
a good idea.

If you’re wondering
whether to wear a face mask to protect yourself, here’s what to consider:

  • Which type of face mask is most effective?
  • What are current recommendations from the
    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on mask use for the public?

So
let’s get to it.

When
you hear about face masks for COVID-19 prevention, it’s generally three types:

  • Respirator (i.e. N95 and FFP)
  • Surgical mask
  • Homemade cloth face mask

 

N95 (also
simply called Respirators)

Respirators are
made from cloth-like filter material that protects wearers from inhaling
infectious organisms. Firmer and more substantial than a surgical mask, the
rounded respirator is shaped more like a small bowl. Its edges form a seal
around your nose, and mouth and the filtering action removes tiny particles from
the air when you breathe in.

The United
States National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has
standardised N95 face masks. The “N” stands for “not resistant to oil,” while
“95” represents its minimum 95 percent filter capacity for catching viruses as
small as 0.3 microns. 

The N95
respirator reduces the wearer’s exposure to tiny, invisible particles in the
air, including bacteria and many viruses. Some N95 type masks have an
attachment, an exhalation valve, which smooths the exhaling and decreases
humidity, heat and moisture from the inside. But for Covid-19 patients or
suspects, the N95 attached with an extension is not an ideal choice since they
need to use one without an exhalation valve so that their cough or sneeze
droplets are blocked inside the mask. 

There are some
other standardised face masks by NIOSH that are N99, N100, which claim to
filter 99 and 99.97 percent of airborne particles, respectively. There are also
R and P series which differ from N in terms of their resistance to oil. R and P
are respectively somewhat and strongly resistant to oil.

Face
Filtering Piece (FFP) 

Face Filtering
Piece (FFP) face masks are a rage in Europe. They are divided into three
categories, FFP1, FFP2 and FFP3. According to the European standards, each type
can filter 80, 94 and 99.95 particles down to 0.3 microns. They are equivalent
to N95 in Europe.

FF1 type is the
lowest level mask for the protection. Generally, people who have respiratory
diseases use FFP1 to avoid being affected by dust and similar substances. It
can’t keep the coronavirus at bay, however, as it is exclusively meant to be
against toxin-free dust.

The medium level
mask, FFP2, provides additional protection from chemically-laced air particles
and dust. It’s uncertain whether it can provide full protection from Covid-19.

When it comes to
FFP3, it ensures the highest protection according to CEN standards. It is the
most effective mask against the coronavirus.

Surgical Mask

Surgical
masks are generally used to protect the wearer from 
large-particle droplets, sprays and splashes. It also prevents potential infectious respiratory secretions
to others. However, it is considered to be weak against the coronavirus.
This is because surgical masks fit
loosely rather than having a tight seal, they don’t provide an absolute barrier
or complete protection against tiny particles in the air that may be released
by coughs or sneezes.

 

Flat, rectangular
surgical face masks are made of thin, paper-like material. Some surgical masks
include a clear, wraparound shield that provides an added barrier for the eyes,
cheeks and forehead. If you need drive-thru COVID-19 testing, for instance, you
might see test providers wearing those kinds of masks. They’re also worn in
hospital settings where respiratory procedures are
performed.

Remember
that while surgical masks don’t protect against infection with COVID- 19, they
can help trap infectious respiratory secretions. This can be a vital tool in
helping prevent the spread of the virus to others in your surroundings.

Homemade Mask

To
prevent the spread of the virus from people without symptoms, the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is now recommending that everyone
wears cloth face masks, such as homemade face masks, while in public
places where it’s difficult to maintain a 6-foot distance from others.

Likewise, in an
effort to protect themselves, while sparing resources like masks for those who
most need them, some members of the general public are fashioning their own
face coverings from materials at hand. These includes the use of material such
as a bandanna or scarf, for personal protection and care of patients with
COVID-19. Necessity is the mother of innovation and there’s certainly a dire
need to protect against COVID-19 and address the lack of masks.

Previous reports
and

research
 have shown that cotton T-shirt material and tea towels
might help block respiratory droplets emitting from sick people — though it’s
not clear how much protection they provide. Another study, of health care
workers in Vietnam, 
found that use of cloth masks resulted in greater infection
than either those wearing surgical masks or a control group, some of whom also
wore surgical masks.

 

As much as we don’t
yet know exactly how effective homemade masks are, they’re a good idea.

 

How
often should you wash your homemade mask.

Think of this mask
as like underwear: It needs to be washed after each use.

Conclusion

Masks are not a
replacement for all the other steps we need to take right now to protect
ourselves from the coronavirus — especially social distancing and good hand
hygiene.