Depending on the area in which you live and the local recommendations (or requirements), the odds are good that you have worn or will wear a face mask at some point. Breathing masks are not all the same, and it is helpful to understand the differences so that you can choose the right one for you. Here are three things to keep in mind as you choose your face mask.
1. Different Face Masks Do Different Things
Surgical and cloth facemasks are meant to protect against droplets. Droplets are small-sized bodily fluids that can be projected through cough, sneeze, or blood spatter and tend to have a maximum projection of three feet. These masks help to protect from diseases that are largely spread through droplets such as the common cold and are mainly what you see people predominantly from Asian cultures wear (although their use is obviously expanding around the world). The N95 mask is designed to protect from even smaller particles that are more aerosolized and have a larger reach.
2. Many Masks Can’t Be Worn Repeatedly
Many masks are for one-time use and then must be thrown away. Some masks meant for one-time use are washed although there is little data that supports this working. Another method is to expose the mask to ultraviolet light to sanitize it and this has proven effective in some cases. If you aren’t using a reusable mask, you need to throw it away after use.
3. Masks Must Be Fitted Properly
Proper mask use includes proper fit. Proper fit ensures that there are no gaps allowing air to enter the protected areas and both the mouth and nose are covered. The mask should fit securely to the skin area along the perimeter or it is not as effective. Wearing a mask can provide a false sense of security so you must be sure that you don it correctly. Finally, it is still important to wash your hands regularly and keep your hands away from your eyes, mouth, and face even though you are wearing a mask.
Breathing masks will continue to be important as our society experiences a new normal. Using them correctly will require a learning curve, but the whole world is in a learning curve right now with the COVID-19 pandemic. Have patience with yourself and with those around you during this time. But along with patience, protect yourself and those around you by using the best face mask for you.