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Which Face Mask Is Best, and When to Use It

Women wearing face masks outdoors

How to figure out which face mask is best for you

With the spread of COVID19 continuing throughout the country, health experts recommend wearing a face mask to slow the virus’ spread. However, with a number of face masks available on the market, finding out which face mask is best can be difficult.

Not every face mask is right for each person. Some face masks can even be ineffective if not used correctly. Other masks that might work well for health professionals, might not work as well for public settings. Choosing the right face mask for you, and knowing how to use it, is important for actually protecting yourself.

Will wearing a face mask prevent coronavirus?

Current coronavirus research suggests the virus is spread through respiratory droplets. Droplets from an infected person can enter the air after coughing, sneezing or talking. The virus can then enter the body through the mouths or noses of people in the area.

According to the World Health Organization, some studies show the virus lasting for days on surfaces. The coronavirus can last up to 72 hours on plastic and stainless steel, and up to 24 hours on cardboard. Recent studies have also shown that the virus can be spread even if somebody isn’t showing symptoms of the coronavirus or has yet to show symptoms. 

While there is still a lack of evidence proving or disproving the effectiveness of face masks at stopping the virus’ spread, experts recommend using them for the time being.

When should I wear a cloth face mask?

Groups like the Center for Disease Control and Protection recommend cloth face masks for use by the general public. CDC guidelines say cloth face coverings should be used by anyone out in public where social distancing measures are harder to maintain. This could be places like grocery stores or pharmacies. There are still no confirmed cases of somebody contracting the virus through food or food packaging.

According to the CDC, a good cloth face mask should fit snugly against the side of the face. The mask should be secured to the face with ties or ear loops. Cloth face masks should include multiple layers of fabric and allow for breathing without restriction. Avoid touching the outside of the face mask while wearing it.

Wearing face mask at supermarket for covid

A benefit to wearing a cloth face mask is that it can be reused. The CDC recommends routine washing depending on how often the mask is used. Running the mask through a washing machine is enough to clean a cloth face covering.

However, the CDC warns against cloth face coverings for children under age 2, anyone with difficulty breathing, or anyone unconscious and unable to remove their mask without assistance. Cloth face masks should still be used in coordination with other preventative measures such as regular hand washing and social distancing.

Do surgical masks stop the coronavirus?

While surgical masks do stop larger respiratory droplets from spreading, the Food and Drug Administration does not recommend surgical masks for use by the public. Smaller respiratory particles can still pass through a surgical mask. The looser fit of a surgical mask also doesn’t fully protect from germs and illnesses. Surgical masks need to be used correctly in order to lower risk of infection.

If you do use a surgical face mask, the WHO suggests checking it for any hole or tears before use. Make sure the mask covers the entire nose and mouth, as well as the chin. Pinch the top part of the surgical mask around the nose to prevent germs from entering. Avoid touching the front of the mask while wearing it.

Another downside to using a surgical mask to try and stop the coronavirus is its reusability. Surgical masks can not be reused. The FDA suggests not using a surgical mask more than once. If the mask gets dirty or damp it needs to be removed and thrown out. You should also remove your surgical face mask if breathing becomes difficult. Any time a surgical mask becomes damaged it needs to be replaced by the wearer. The FDA calls for placing the used mask in a plastic bag and then placing it in the trash. Washing your hands after touching a used surgical face mask is also important to avoid catching the virus.

Should I be wearing an N95 respirator?

An N95 mask is a face mask commonly used by healthcare professionals. These masks go through rigorous testing for things like fluid resistance and effective filtration. N95 respirators also form a seal around the nose and mouth to prevent germs from entering the body. According to the FDA, these masks block up to 95 percent of particles during testing.

While an N95 respirator is among one of the most effective masks at filtering airborne particles, they are not recommended for use by the general public. Instead, the FDA says N95 masks should be saved for healthcare workers and medical responders. These masks also can’t be reused or shared with other wearers. As with other masks, an N95 respirator does not completely remove the risk of catching the virus.

The FDA does not recommend these masks for people with pre-existing respiratory and cardiac issues. N95 masks can make breathing more difficult for some people. People with facial hair and children are also advised not to use these masks. Facial hair can prevent the mask from covering the face correctly.

Which face mask is best for me?

Knowing how to find the right face mask for you, and how to wear it, can help prevent the spread of coronavirus. A cloth face mask, like one made by Excelsus Solutions, can be helpful to somebody in public settings where it’s harder to maintain social distancing. Excelsus Solutions’ face masks are comfortable and breathable. These masks can also be washed and reused, instead of thrown out after a single use.

If you’re looking to block larger respiratory particles in a medical setting, a surgical mask might be the choice for you. As always, wearing a face mask is not the only way to prevent the spread of COVID19.

Frequent hand washing with soap and water or an alcohol-based sanitizer should be used along with masks. Maintaining at least six feet of social distance between yourself and others can also lower your risk of contracting the virus.

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