WHAT FACE MASKS ARE BEST?
Tid Bits of Info
- Droplets travel an average of 3-4 feet during a normal conversation with no face covering.
- N95 masks nearly eliminate all droplets and air to travel more than the distance to the mask.
- Surgical faces masks and double-layer cotton masks are very effective.
- Proper social distancing and wide-open spaces (especially outdoors) nearly eliminates the need for a mask.
- Wear a face mask if you cannot social distance, are in a confined spot or you are not feeling well.
There is a huge debate everywhere about the use of face masks during this pandemic. Some people refuse to wear masks in public and other people feel everyone should comply. Regardless of personal preferences about the face mask, it is important that we wear the proper face mask for the most effective protection. Unfortunately, the most fashionable and convenient masks are not effective, and researchers have indicated that they might make matters worse.
Face Masks are designed to protect others and some of the best masks also provide protection to you. The COVID-19 virus is an airborne virus and it can linger in the air for a period of time. When someone exhales, the air that comes out has fluid droplets in it. If these droplets have any kind of virus (i.e. common cold, influenza, COVID 19), they can spread to others if they are inhaled by that person. In confined spaces (crowded indoor/outdoor venues, elevators, office space, etc.) the spread of the virus can be excessive. Obviously, a large number of people in a confined space lends itself to transmission of the virus and the infection of a very large number of people in a short period of time.
The use of a proper mask can reduce the spread of the droplets of fluid that are part of someone’s exhaled air. In fact, the best masks nearly eliminate the fluid from the exhaled air and stop the air from traveling throughout the room. Studies have shown droplets travel up to 12-15 feet when someone sneezes powerfully without covering their mouth. Normal conversational breathing can spread the droplets 3-4 feet on average. Therefore, the standard “social distancing” has been recommended to be a minimum of 6 feet apart from another person.
Research has taken place in numerous areas of the country to test the effectiveness of the most commonly worn masks. The most effective mask is the “fitted” N95 mask that fits snuggly to the face and worn by most healthcare professionals. These face masks are successful at reducing the droplet count during talking to nearly zero. Surgical masks are excellent at reducing droplets as are hand-sewn cotton masks providing, they were double-layered.
Unfortunately, bandanas only reduce approximately 50% of the droplets, and neck fleeces or gaiter masks are some of the most popular to wear but they are the least effective. These masks resulted in a higher number of respiratory droplets because the material seemed to break down larger droplets into smaller particles that are more easily carried away with air. These single layer gaiter masks might be worse than no cover at all. When the fleece is “double-layered” it does provide a moderate amount of protection to others by blocking a portion of the droplets and not enabling them to travel too far in space.
A simple test of mask effectiveness is to attempt to blow out a candle or match through the mask. If the mask is effective, you will not be able to blow out the flame.
The use of proper face masks can help to reduce the spread of the COVID 19 virus and any other virus for that matter. The use should be considered a shared responsibility of all people because it can protect others more effectively than yourself in many instances. Use should not be considered mandatory when someone is able to social distance and especially in a large open area. Please use a mask when necessary to help stop the spread of the sometimes deadly COVID 19 virus.