Do Face Masks Prevent COVID-19? Here’s All You Need To Know

Ever since the novel coronavirus is detected, the whole world population is at a major health risk. The virus has infected millions of people worldwide and this infection count is continuously increasing with every passing day. Since it is a new virus and the scientists are not aware of its viral characteristics therefore no potential vaccine and cure is known yet. Thus, we can only rely on preventive measures.

Social distancing and maintaining personal hygiene are the two most recommended preventive measures to minimize the risk of infection. Scientists and public health experts urge people to stay at home and go outside only if it is necessary. Moreover, they have generated SOPs for people outside the home. For example, they must wear masks, sanitize their hands regularly, avoid corporal contact, etc. Personal protective equipment, especially face masks, are known to provide the best safety against the coronavirus. They are reportedly proven essential to prevent the spread of COVID-19 especially when people cannot safely distance from each other.

This respective article is written to enlighten our audience regarding the important aspects of wearing face masks. Here’s all that you need to know!

A face mask can block contagious viral particles

Respiratory droplets, produced through sneezes, coughs, or talks, are the most common cause of the coronavirus spread. According to the CDC reports, the respiratory aerosols from an infected person can be transmitted up to 26 feet or can hang up in the air for about three hours. Wearing a mask can block or limit the contact of the wearer with these contagious droplets, minimizing the risk of infection. Also, many cases of coronavirus are reported asymptomatic. These carriers may transmit the virus unknowingly to the people around them but a face mask can control the situation effectively.

The primary requirement to control the pandemic is to stay home and maintain a physical distance from the public. However, if in any case, you need to get out, wear a mask and wash your hands frequently.

When is it appropriate to wear a mask?

The Department of Public Health, California has proposed various situations where face coverings are a must e.g. if you are visiting a public place, be it indoor or outdoor, using public transport, going for groceries, working in offices, banks or other workplaces, etc. In short, one should wear a mask if they are at a less than 6 feet distance with the public.

There are certain exemptions to these orders as well. For instance, it isn’t obligatory for the children, aged two or less, to wear a mask. The same goes for people with specific health conditions who are medically directed not to wear a face covering. Also, you can take your mask off if you are communicating with someone who has a hearing impairment. Similarly, there is no restriction of covering your face while being seated at a restaurant or engaged in a recreational activity, provided that you keep a 6 feet distance from the people around you.   

Exercising alone is another exemption. If you are working out alone then you don’t need to wear a mask. However, if you are at the gym, you can take your mask off but try not to talk to people around. Note, your sweat can make your mask wet and promote the growth of microbes in it thus it is good not to wear a mask while exercising.

Last but not the least; it is not compulsory to wear a mask at home unless someone is sick. In the case of a sick individual at home, all the household members should wear a mask and the infected person should additionally stay in a separate room.

Always remember, the more socially distant you are, the lesser is the mask required. 

The right kind of face covering

Experts from The John Hopkins University say that masks or face coverings are important because they;

  1. Prevent healthy individuals from catching the infection
  2. Prevent the infected ones from spreading the infection

These masks provide proper seal so that small droplets from the nose and mouth of the wearers are blocked, keeping the risk of infection at a minimum.

Various kinds of face coverings or masks are available in the market today. To help you choose the right kind of mask, we here outline different types with their specified characteristics.

  • DIY face coverings or masks

Have you ever imagined that you can make face coverings at home! Yes, homemade face coverings can be made using a high-quality cloth that can absorb the infected droplets and prevent them from entering the surrounding environment. If worn properly, these masks can keep your face clean by covering your face and nose. However, they are not approved medically and thus can be associated with some risk.

  • Surgical masks

Surgical masks are medical and procedure masks that can reduce the contact of the wearer with the potential contaminants. These masks are usually loose-fitting and thus are effective against large droplets/splashes, etc.

  • N95 respirators

The best and highest quality masks are N95 respirators. They fit tightly around the nose and mouth of the wearer, providing the best protection against the virus. N95 masks provide 95% protection against airborne particles and are mostly recommended for health care workers. Since, the coronavirus is spreading continuously worldwide, the demand for N95 respirators is increasing proportionally. However, their production is falling short of the required scale thus experts are suggesting using and reusing the mask until it gets dirty or damaged.

  • One-way vent N95 respirators

One-way vent N95 respirators have an exhalation valve and are used during fire season mostly. They are generally designed with a plastic disk and are ineffective in blocking the transmission of COVID-19. This is because they only protect the wearer but not others and can release respiratory droplets of the wearer into the air.

How to wear the mask properly?

Face coverings or masks work if only worn properly. The WHO has provided certain guidelines for wearing the masks properly. Let’s have a look!

  1. Wash or sanitize your hands with an antiseptic soap or alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  2. Take the mask out of its cover carefully and cover your mouth and nose with it.
  3. Make sure there are no gaps between the mask and your face and avoid touching the mask while using it.
  4. Try to prevent your mask from getting damp or wet and if it gets so replace it immediately.
  5. While removing the mask, don’t touch it at the front but take if off from behind. Discard it in a closed bin and sanitize your hands immediately.
  6. Don’t share your mask with anyone.
  7. Avoid reusing the disposed of mask.

Face masks-O2 deficiency & CO2 poisoning

Two of the most common public concerns regarding medical masks are that if they cause oxygen deficiency or carbon dioxide poisoning. A simple answer to that is “no, face coverings don’t cause such situations.” The WHO has clearly stated that properly worn medical masks don’t cause oxygen deficiency or CO2 intoxication. According to the experts, these masks are specially designed for easy diffusion of oxygen and carbon dioxide in and out respectively. Therefore, they allow normal breathing with no harmful conditions associated.

Can coronavirus enter through eyes?

Most of the scientific research says that infectious diseases can be transmitted through eyes. However, this concept regarding coronavirus spread is still doubtful. There may be a possibility that coronavirus can spread through eyes therefore people should take all the necessary steps to reduce any risk. They are recommended not to touch their eyes, wear glasses, and practice good hygiene if using contact lenses.

Is it safe to reuse a mask?

The CDC and WHO recommended the general public not to wear face coverings or masks. It is done because the production of the masks is running short and there are low supplies of medical masks for the frontline workers. Also, the public health experts have advised people to reuse the masks as much as possible but that too with proper care. Cloth masks can be washed with hot water, N95 respirators can be decontaminated using dry heat method, etc.

People can use the masks until any physical damage appears. Afterward, the mask should be disposed of within properly sealed bags. Inappropriate disposal can elevate the infection spread to dangerous levels.