Parenthesis THERE ARE OTHER FACTORS AT PLAY
Measuring the benefit of face masks is a complicated task, explain teachers and researchers Lena Ciric, Abigail Hathway, Benjamín Jonesen and Chris Iddon in an article published in December 2021 in the media The Conversation. Why? Because there are many variables that influence the metrics, for example, the viral load of those infected (the higher the concentration of virus, the more likely it is to spread), the type of action (if it is singing, shouting, talking), added to the size of the interior space that individuals are in and how much time they spend in it. However, despite the investigative difficulty, teachers point out that there is certainty that face masks “definitely trap virus-laden aerosols and droplets, which has an impact on reducing the number of infections.”
This type of mask is a good option, but it has weaknesses. Keep in mind that the manufacturing material tends to be porous, therefore, to be safe and effective, make sure it has three layers or more (at least one of them is anti-fluid). Also, wash it every night after wearing it and have at least two or three pairs to change each day, says Navas. “This is undoubtedly the best option from an ecological point of view because they are washable, we must remember, especially the good fit to the face and that the anti-fluid fabric loses quality after approximately 20 washes.” To check the level of a cloth mask, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends checking that it blocks light when exposed to a lamp or the sun. Likewise, they suggest that cloth masks with valves not be used because these allow the escape of respiratory droplets.
Faced with this type of mask, teachers Navas and Jiménez agree that it is important to ensure that they are made with non-woven material and that they have three layers or more (you should read this on the label or packaging). A very important issue is that they should not be used for more than 8 hours because they are no longer effective.
Regarding the simultaneous use of a surgical mask and a cloth mask, the virologist Navas adds that it is a good option, as long as the wearer is not adjusting them at all times (they could be uncomfortable), “because that facilitates entry and aerosol output. In this regard, the CDC points out that it is a valid alternative and should not be confused with the use of two surgical masks, since the fit to the face would not be optimal.
These types of masks are the ones that look triangular and white, made of a much thicker and firmer material: non-woven polypropylene. According to the CDC, it is essential that you buy this type of mask from reliable places (just like the others) or specialized in medical products to avoid buying imitation references that do not provide the same protection. Ideally, these should fit behind each ear and have no breathing valve. Regarding the time of use, these are also disposable like the surgical ones and although they can be disinfected two or three times, it is not recommended because they lose filtration quality. If you want to do it, you must be very careful because they can be contaminated. Choose to expose them to direct sunlight for at least 10 minutes.
Navas remembers they are the most effective to prevent contagion. For this reason its use is recommended exclusively for the protection of health personnel. Misuse can lead to shortage situations that endanger the lives of doctors and nurses. In addition, due to their effectiveness, they are used by people who work in dusty environments, attend forest fires or who live in polluted places. The way they work is somewhat fascinating: they use the laws of physics so that, among other things, even the smallest particles are superficially “trapped” in the fibers, somewhat mimicking the characteristics of a spider web that catches insects It is recommended for situations that involve a lot of risk, for example, if a covid patient has to be cared for closely (helped to walk or bathe) and, above all, if the person who has to take care of them has a high risk of developing severe covid.
Along with all the guidelines, Navas and Jiménez complement, it is important to fit any of the recommended types of mask well to the face, so that there is no hole between the cheeks, nose or chin.
To check if it has a good fit or not, check that air is coming out or entering through the area near the eyes and the sides of the mask, also, if it fits well, you will feel that hot air enters and you will be able to see that the material of the mask (if flexible) moves in and out when you breathe.
Finally, the CDC recommends that you shave your beard or keep it as short as possible; use special accessories (plastics) for adjustment and always carry one or two spare masks with you.
Virologist Navas reiterates that under no circumstances should she abuse the use of the same mask, especially surgical ones. Also, do not use them if they are moistened by mucus, rain or saliva, “if any of the masks gets wet, you have to change it because it loses its qualities.” An additional tip is to try any type of mask at home first to see if it feels comfortable or not, that the fit is correct and that you can breathe without difficulty. The ideal, the CDC concludes, is that you use protection whenever you are in public places, with crowds or even at home if you will be around people at high risk of severe covid or if there are unknown people visiting. The masks indicated in this article work to take care of yourself (avoid foam and valve ones instead), but they reach their greatest effectiveness by following the recommendations (triple layer, well adjusted, etc).