FluShields Looks Into The Question About How Safe Face Masks Really Are
Everybody is wondering nowadays what type of face mask can prevent the spread of the coronavirus in different surroundings and circumstances. Why is it important for our protection, and even became mandatory in some states and countries? There are so many different kinds of masks on the market that one gets confused easily: KN95 or N95 face masks? With valves or without valves? Or are 3ply or surgery masks better? Let's make some sense out of the overwhelming offerings and claims on the market:
According to the CDC, it is advised that people wear a face covering or mask to protect their nose and mouth while in the crowd. This is one form of a public health regimen that people should be doing to minimize the spread of COVID-19, in addition to social or physical distances, regular hand washing, and other prevention steps.
Certain types of masks only protect you against dust or bacterias, but not against viruses, gases or chemical vapors.
Experts say that the popular cotton mask, which is a non-medical mask, may protect the people wearing them but it does not stop virus droplets from escaping and infecting others. Most non-medical face masks are designed for construction workers or landscaping staff or people working in the agricultural section to keep out dust and other environmental-related particles, but not viruses. Always keep in mind: the cotton masks are for basic protection, but you should always keep your distance from other people.
If you go out with a group of people, go to a crowded office or restaurant, or take a bus or train you should always use a KN95 mask, which has a health and safety approval by the Chinese government for medical areas, or an N95 face mask that is certified by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) - which is the equivalent to the Chinese KN95 certificate. According to the FDA, the N95 or KN95 is designed to achieve "a very close facial fit," and if properly fitted blocks "at least 95%" of the very small virus particles.
Good news: You can actually protect yourself as much as possible by wearing an N95 respirator mask: Get your N95 respirator masks for the whole family today.
How safe and effective are 3-ply surgical face masks?
Another mask that has been tested and has proved its effectiveness is the surgical face mask or so-called 3-ply surgical face mask. One has to understand that the effectiveness of a face mask has all to do with the size of the particles or droplets floating through the air. For example, one study using high-speed video showed that hundreds of bigger droplets ranging from 20 to 500 micrometers produced in an open space were blocked when the mouth was only covered with a damp washcloth. A surgical face mask in the same study greatly decreased the volume of the tiny respiratory viruses released in droplets and aerosols, making the 3-ply surgical mask up to 80% safe.
The best support for wearing face masks comes from real-world scenario experiments.
The most important thing is the epidemiological evidence. For example, a new report published in Health Affairs compared the growth rate of COVID-19 both before and after mask mandates in 15 states and the District of Columbia. It observed that mask mandates contributed to a decline in the daily growth rate of COVID-19, which became more apparent over time. For the first five days after the mandate, the daily growth rate slowed by 0.9 percentage points compared to the five days prior to the mandate; at three weeks, the daily growth rate slowed by 2 percentage points.
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Two convincing case reports also indicate that N95 or KN 95 face masks can prevent transmission in high-risk scenarios. In one scenario, a man flew from China to Toronto and then tested positive for COVID-19. He was wearing a KN95 mask on the flight, and all 25 people nearest to him tested negative for COVID-19 on the flight. In another scenario, at the end of May 2020, two hairstylists in Missouri had close contact with 140 clients when they were ill with COVID-19. All were wearing an N95 face mask, and none of the clients tested positive.
Who is protected by the face masks: the people wearing them or the people around them?
There actually is ample evidence to suggest that the greatest protection is for people who have COVID-19 to prevent them from giving COVID-19 to others, but you also get protection from wearing a mask if you don't have COVID-19. KN95 or N95 face masks can be more effective as a "source control", so they can prevent larger expelled droplets from evaporating into smaller droplets that can migrate faster. Another thing to consider is that you might also receive the virus through the membranes in your eyes, a possibility that using a face mask would not prevent it. If you want to make really sure to stay healthy you should wear protective gear like the hospital staff does: goggles, surgical or KN95/N95 face masks, and a face shield or a face shield with an integrated mask.
Should everyone be wearing N95 respiratory face masks to stay safe from any virus?
In many studies, the N95 or KN95 are still the recommended face masks not only for health professionals because it has the capacity to filter out very small particles that could possibly contain the virus. This is different from a surgical mask which can only stop larger droplets.
In one experiment, researchers estimated that 80 percent of the population wearing masks would do better to minimize the spread of COVID-19 than a strict lockdown. And if you live in a city where few people wear masks, you'd always reduce the odds of getting infected by wearing one yourself.
What type of mask to be needed?
Studies have compared different mask types, but comfort could be the most critical factor for the general public. The best mask is the one that you can wear easily and regularly. N95 Respirators are recommended to be worn everywhere and anywhere nowadays. At the beginning of the pandemic, experts were recommending the KN95 face masks only in emergency conditions such as intubation. That recommendation has changed due to the many studies done with the different face masks and the spread of the virus. Surgical masks are definitely more protective than cotton masks or fabric masks, though some people find them thinner and more comfortable to wear. Anyhow, the concept here is pure risk reduction rather than absolute prevention. Nobody is taking a cholesterol drug so they're trying to avoid a heart disease 100% all the time, but you're trying to reduce your risk significantly.
KN95/N95 face masks with valves are great for athletes.
Some experts actually warned against N95/KN95 face masks with valves, which are commonly used in sports and in construction to prevent dust inhalation, because they seem not to protect those around you. Experts stated at the beginning of the pandemic that these one-way valves close when the wearer breathes, but open when the wearer breathes out, allowing unfiltered air and droplets to escape. These claims are now revised and are no longer true: many KN95/N95 face masks have PM2.5 filters inside which prevent small droplets to escape through the valve. You just have to change the small PM2.5 filters every day. Those so-called sports face masks are very popular with athletes and everybody involved in sports because you can breathe through the valve more easily during exercise - and they are reusable!
Good news: You can actually protect yourself as much as possible by wearing a N95 face mask: Get your N95 respirator masks for the whole family today.
Disclaimer: Please note that we can only pass on general information and cannot make any guarantees or be liable for any consequences of your decision making or behavior. Use good common sense and ask your healthcare provider or physician for advice.
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