Protective Personal Equipment

Are cloth masks effective against the new coronavirus?

The new coronavirus is spread primarily from person to person through respiratory droplets. These droplets are produced when an infected person sneezes, coughs, or talks. They can then land in the mouths or noses of the people nearby and inhaled into the lungs.

Because COVID-19 is highly transmittable, the focus of health officials is to slow the spread of the virus. And one of the known ways to cut the risk of getting the virus is by wearing a mask. If you are infected, mask covers your mouth and nose and block the release of virus-filled droplets into the air. If you are free from the virus, it is an added layer of protection that stops the droplets from entering your mouth and nose. The CDC recommends wearing a face mask, whether you are sick or healthy, in places where it could be hard to maintain social distancing.

Does it matter what kind of mask you wear?

There are different types of respirators that can be used to help slow the spread of COVID-19. The most common ones are N95 respirators, surgical masks, and cloth masks. The different types of masks offer different levels of protection against the virus. 

The N95 mask is a tight-fitting mask that filters 95 percent of very small particles including viruses and bacteria. On the other hand, the surgical mask is a loose-fitting disposable mask that can protect the wearer from large-particle droplets. Because of the shortage of personal protective equipment during the pandemic, these kinds of masks should be reserved for health workers and first responders – those who are vulnerable to the disease.

Using cloth masks

Cloth face masks may not be as effective as the N95 respirators and surgical masks when protecting a person from COVID-19 and other viruses. A journal from 2008 indicates that homemade masks maybe half as effective as surgical masks, and 50 times less effective than N95 masks.

Homemade cloth masks often have gaps near the nose, cheeks, and jaw where tiny droplets can be inhaled. The fabric is also often penetrable and can’t stop the droplets from spreading out.

Cloth masks may be less effective than their medical counterparts, but it is still far better to wear one than to not wear any mask at all. It still provides added protection to the wearer and the people nearby.

Face mask safety tips

The effectiveness of cloth face masks can be enhanced with proper wearing and maintenance. Take note of the following safety tips:

  • Use proper hand hygiene each time you put on and remove your mask. Avoid touching the surface of your face mask. If you have to adjust it, make sure your hands are clean before doing so. Then clean them again after.
  • Since cloth masks are reusable, sanitize them properly. Clean the mask after each use. Cloth masks can be hand-washed or machine-washed. Use laundry detergent then store it in a warm, dry place before wearing it again.
  • Change your face mask once it is torn or can no longer fit your face.

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