Best Face Masks For Protection During Covid-19 - All You Need To Know Before Buying A Face Mask
In late 2019, a novel coronavirus emerged in the streets of Wuhan in China. Since then, according to the statistical report this virus has spread across the world and has affected nearly 9 million people and caused the death of nearly 480,000 people. According to the latest data, nearly 160,000 new cases are coming up every day. While some who are contradicted by this virus experience mild fever and illness, many others with weak immune systems experience breathlessness, pneumonia and even failure in the respiratory system.
Graph given by New York Times in 24th June 2020
During these times of emergency, many people have catered to buying masks online to keep themselves safe. Scientists and health experts say that wearing a mask does not guarantee complete protection from getting yourself infected with the virus but they are highly effective in reducing the spread of the coronavirus. It generally spreads from an infected person in the form of small droplets when the person exhales, coughs, talks or sneezes. These face masks like surgical masks, respiratory masks cancel the transmission pathway of the coronavirus by capturing the droplets. If you are near a person who has been tested positive for coronavirus, then wearing a mask cuts the chances of the disease being passed on to you. If you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, or have been diagnosed, wearing a mask can also protect others. Therefore face masks are a crucial step towards reducing the spread of coronavirus.
According to WHO (World Health Organization), the following points need to be kept in mind while wearing a face mask:
- You need to first clean your hands with soap and water before touching the mask. Inspect the mask for any dirt or damage.
- While wearing the mask, make sure to adjust the mask appropriately to your face without leaving any gaps on the sides. While doing so, cover the vulnerable parts like nose, mouth and chin.
- Health experts and officials highly advise against touching the mask. Always keep a sanitizer with you, in case you touch the mask.
- Before removing the mask, wash your hands with soap and water. Now remove the mask by the ear loops/ straps behind your ear. Pull the mask away from your face and remember to hold it by the strap.
- If it is a reusable mask, then wash the mask with soap and hot water to kill the germs and bacteria. If it is a surgical mask or a disposable mask, dispose of them carefully in a garbage bin. Immediately wash your hands with soap and water before engaging in any activity.
As the importance of these masks is increasing during the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for such masks is also increasing. This in turn resulted in mass manufacturing of surgical masks, disposable masks, N 95 respiratory masks etc. At such times, it is important as a user to understand the originality of the face masks. Users should be able to understand the difference between the original products and fake ones. There are broadly 2 types of face masks in use during COVID 19; Surgical Masks and Respirators.
They are disposable, loose-fitting face masks that cover your nose, mouth, and chin. These are generally made of 3 layers that are melt blown together and come with elastic ear loops. They are made of non-woven fabric with a high-density filter layer. Surgical masks can vary in design, but the mask itself is often flat and rectangular in shape. Some surgical masks are equipped with a metallic strip called the nose pin. The nose pins help in maintaining the stability of the surgical masks.
Types of Surgical Masks
Surgical Face masks are commonly classified into two major categories:
- 3 Ply Face Mask: A good quality 3 Ply Face Masks has 3 distinct layers and each layer has a functional property. The outermost layer of the mask is a hydrophobic layer that repels splashes, water droplets from sneezes or coughs and body fluids. The middle layer is designed to be a filter and acts as a barrier against bacteria and other germs. The innermost layer is a water absorbent layer, which absorbs sweat, moistures and water from the body. In order to get a better understanding of 3 Ply Surgical Masks, you can check out our COVID Store.
- 4 Ply Face Mask: A 4 Ply face mask is similar to a 3 Ply Mask in its feature and design but is integrated with an activated carbon filter. 3 Ply Face Masks are manufactured with spun bond polypropylene, melt-blown non-woven fabric and an active carbon filter fabric. It also comes with a metallic strip called a nosepin that provides better protection and grip the face mask. An added feature of these surgical masks is that, it gives protection against odors or organic vapors.
Tests to check the originality of your Surgical Masks
Since the surgical masks are disposable masks, they aren’t designed to be used for a long duration of time. It is highly advised to dispose of the masks after a full day of use. Many tests can be taken to check the originality of surgical masks or to check if they are 3 layered melt blown masks. Experts have suggested a dew home tests that you can try to check the originality of the 3 ply surgical masks. Some of them are listed below:
If you cut open your mask, you will be able to see 3 distinct layers. One layer is a hydrophobic non-woven layer, the middle layer is a melt blown layer and there is an inner soft absorbent non-woven layer. If you do not find 3 layers on the mask, then it is not a 3 Ply mask or a surgical mask.
Non Flammability Test
The middle layer of a surgical mask is a melt-blown fabric and hence not made of paper. Therefore, if you light the mask with a flame, it will not burn like paper. Instead, it melts without flame. If the mask catches fire, then you can conclude that it is not a 3 Ply Surgical Mask.
Water Resistant Layer
The outermost layer is designed to be waterproof and is repellent towards water. Therefore, if you pour water onto the outer layer, you should be able to observe that the mask repels water effectively. If the other side of the mask gets moist or becomes damp, you will understand that the surgical mask is not waterproof and hence is not a 3 Ply mask.
3-ply surgical mask is designed with a middle melt-blown layer that is critical as a filter to contain droplets by electrostatically adsorbing them on the surface and the inner layer is intended to absorb water, sweat and spit. These layers make the mask sturdy. Hold a flame in front of the surgical mask while wearing it, then exhale onto the flame. If you can extinguish a fire easily with your breath while wearing the mask, it is not a 3-ply mask.
Respiratory Masks are mainly designed to protect the wearer from exposure to airborne particulate matter and biological matter like bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms. The main difference between a respirator and a surgical mask is that, the latter acts as a barrier to splashes and droplets whereas respirators are designed to create a seal tight fit to the user’s face. They filter particles from the air when properly fitted and help in reducing the number of particles or germs the wearer breathes in.
They are generally ideal for anyone who wears it, but health experts say that respiratory masks reap benefits to certain users:
- People with respiratory complications such as asthma or lung disease
- People who have been diagnosed with a cardiovascular disease
- Children, teenagers and the elderly
- Expectant women and new mothers
Types of Respiratory Masks
Respiratory Masks are broadly classified into various categories. Some of them are listed below:
FFP2 Respiratory Masks
The FFP2 respirator masks provide effective respiratory protection for users who are exposed to dust particles or non-volatile liquid particles. The masks have a unique 3-panel design that accommodates facial movement for wearer comfort. These respiratory masks provide effective filtration with low breathing resistance. They are integrated with a sculpted nose panel that fits perfectly on the nose and adapts to the face structure. It has an innovative chin tab that provides a comfortable fit and easy adjustment. They are known for their consistent high-quality performance. It also has an exhalation valve that improves comfortability in a hot environment. A genuine FFP2 respiratory mask is tested and CE approved.
W95 Reusable Respirators
The W95 Reusable Respirators is a super mask introduced by Wildcraft. These respiratory masks are engineered with an innovative 6 layered triple filtration system that gives it an edge over other masks. The Wildcraft W95 respiratory masks are designed to be highly durable and are designed to be used for all weather conditions. They are integrated with an innovative two-panel design for universal fit. They have a wide face coverage and soft, elastic ear loop for extra comfort. They have an adjustable nose clip for enhanced protection. The W95 masks are designed specifically by keeping breathability and comfort in mind. They have a low heat build that makes them stand out among other respiratory face masks.
The 6 layers are divided into the following layers:
- The innermost layer of the W95 face mask has advanced moisture control and an antibacterial finish.
- The middlemost layers are melt blown and act as a filter against bacteria, microorganisms and other small particles. These melt-blown layers are centered around two spun bonded layers that act as droplet protection.
- And finally, the W95 respiratory masks have one outer layer that acts as a coarse particle filter against bigger dust particles.
The Wildcraft W95 Respiratory masks are tested as per the Bureau of Indian Standards that are tested in the Ministry of Textile approved labs. These protective masks have the following certifications:
- A W95 mask has a bacterial filtration efficiency of more than 95% for 3 micron-sized bacteria.
- They have a particle filtration efficiency of more than 95% for 0.3 micron-sized particles.
- These respiratory masks have undergone Fluid splash resistant test on Hydrostatic head test for up to 160 mmHg. This indicated that the W95 face masks protect against accidental fluid/sneeze droplets from reaching the user's nose and mouth.
An N95 respirator is a more tight-fitting face mask. Along with splashes, sprays, and large droplets, this respirator can also filter out 95% of very small particles. This includes viruses, bacteria and other microorganisms. The respirator itself is generally circular or oval in shape and is designed to form a tight seal to your face. Elastic bands help hold it firmly to your face.
N95 respirators aren’t one-size-fits masks. They actually must be tested for a perfect fit before using it to make sure that a proper seal is formed. If the mask doesn’t seal effectively to your face, you won’t receive the appropriate protection. It is highly recommended to be used mainly by health officers, nurses and doctors who are the front line workers against the Coronavirus. There are a variety of reasons for this:
N95 respirators should be fit-tested in order to be used appropriately. A poor seal can lead to leakage, lowering the respirator’s effectiveness.
Due to their tight fit, N95 respirators can become uncomfortable and stuffy, making them difficult to wear for extended periods.
The worldwide supply of N95 respirators is limited, making it critical that healthcare workers and first responders have ready access to them.
How to know if your N95 Respirators are original?
- All N95 respirators are NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health)
- The biggest difference between the original and face N95 respirators is in the presence of ear loops or headbands. NIOSH-approved respirators or original N95 respirator masks have headbands, which provide a tighter fit and greater protection against COVID-19 air particles.
- NIOSH-approved products do not contain decorative fabrics or add-ons, such as sequins.
- NIOSH products are never approved for use by children.
- “NIOSH” is often misspelled on duplicate respirators. Some manufacturers use this method to trick consumers.
Cloth masks are made of common textile like cotton, wool and are worn over the mouth and nose. Since there is a high requirement in the global supply for N95 masks and surgical masks, people have also catered to using cloth masks. The come in attractive colours and design that goes well with your attire.
Cloth face masks should be worn in public settings where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, such as in grocery stores, especially in areas of significant community-based transmission. Cloth masks are cheap and simple to make.
The risks involved in using Cloth Masks:
- They let through more particles and other macroparticles.
- Cloth masks facilitate self-contamination. Contaminated cloth masks may transfer pathogens from the mask to the bare hands of the wearer.
- They are not integrated with a filtration system.
- According to a study, it was found that 40-90% of particles are able to penetrate cloth masks. The penetration through cloth is reported to be high.
With the ever increasing number of cases of COVID-19, it is important that we take great precautions and we can start that by firstly taking care of ourselves and our close ones. The first step to this is choosing the right face mask according to your usage and environment. Remembering the guidelines given by WHO on wearing face masks and washing hands regularly can go a long way in keeping yourself safe.