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What Is The Best Face Mask?

Several months now into the COVID-19 pandemic and people are still wondering what exactly is the best face mask.  What is the best face mask to buy to keep you safe?  What is the difference between N95 Respirators, disposable surgical masks, cotton face masks, or home made cloth or paper masks?  With tons of information available at any moment on the internet, people can most certainly search social media outlets like Facebook and Instagram, YouTube, and others, as well as the major news outlets like The New York Times for the do’s and don’ts of mask wearing, but with all this information overloading our brains, it can truly be difficult sometimes to decode everything. Of course, there’s the essential information available to the public on the CDC’s website.  However, given their continuous message-shifting and the fact that new information about the virus basically comes out by-the-minute,  it can be quite confusing when one decides to try to follow along; even more, it can be super difficult for anyone to pick out the most important details from the information out there when so many are already so overwhelmed with work-from-home status, kids not in school, etc.  Many are experiencing information overload because their minds are simply just not able to shake away their basic levels of fear, anxiety, or depression that many of us have had to live with all throughout 2020 ever since Coronavirus landed in the United States.  

If there’s one pandemic prevention concept however that most do agree with, it’s that face masks most certainly do “help prevent the spread of COVID-19.” And that’s because, according to a recent report by doctors at Johns Hopkins University, face coverings “helps to contain small droplets that come out of your mouth and/or nose when you talk, sneeze or cough.”  [1] 

Yet, what most American’s seem to forget when it comes to wearing a face mask is the following:  it’s not that you need to wear a face mask in public to protect yourself, it’s that you also need to wear one to protect those around you that you may encounter, and this includes those that carelessly refuse to wear a mask themselves. Any person that may be healthy, or not showing Coronavirus symptoms can still also be a carrier, even though they don’t know it. Recent studies suggest that a percentage of Americans that will contract COVID in the remainder of 2020 may not show any symptoms; this means that the virus has the possibility yet to still spread from person-to-person before anyone realizes that may have made someone sick.  This makes those over the age of 65 and those living with health conditions like heart disease, diabetes, chronic lung disease, and cancer the most at risk.   Which is why it’s so important that everyone not only continue to follow social distancing and handwashing guidelines set forth earlier this year to protect everyone from COVID, but that Americans also wear a quality PPE face mask when venturing out into the world.

What Is The Best Face Mask?

Consider this when it comes to the best mask to keep yourself and others safe:  You don’t need the best face mask on the market to keep safe, what you need is the best face mask for the situation that you’re entering.  It’s important to take into consideration that there are not only a few different types of masks available, but that your mask needs to be appropriate for the particular situations that you may need to enter.  For example, Is it necessary to wear a N95 mask when you need to go to the grocery store?  No.    Is it safe for a critical care worker at the hospital to wear only a cloth face mask?   It is not.   When deciding what mask might be best to wear, it’s important to not only think about the situation you’re entering, but also if the mask you’ve chosen to wear accommodates any possible medical needs that you might have, as determined by a physician.  When it comes down to making a decision as to whether or not you need to wear a N95 mask, a surgical mask, or a cloth face mask, here’s what sets them apart from one another.     Remember, unless you’re a critical care worker who works with COVID patients on a daily basis, or are a civilian with a serious health condition that may make you a prime candidate to contract COVID, more than likely, all you need to function in the world, keep you safe and those around you, is a high-quality cloth face mask.

N95 Masks

Special medical masks that have been manufactured to prevent exposure of droplets that may attempt to enter the wearer’s respiratory system.  N95 masks are deemed essential gear for health care workers in hospitals that need to protect themselves when having to care for patients already sick with the COVID-19 virus.   These types of masks are often in short-supply; so when a civilian purchases one it is effectively taking away protection for critical care workers and first responders hard at work within the American health system. 

Surgical Mask

Often blue or green with ear loops, surgical masks are excellent weapons against coronavirus; as they are effective because they are fluid resistant and offer protection against cough droplets or sneezes.  Wearing a surgical mask will help prevent the spreading of COVID to others.  Like the N95 Mask, these are also masks that should be worn by medical professionals who need to keep themselves safe in their day-to-day activities at the hospital.

Cloth Masks

In recent studies it has been shown that cloth masks will also help slow the spread of Coronavirus.  However, it is important that when sourcing a cloth mask or attempting to make your own that it is created from high-quality cotton material.  Masks made from stretchy materials are not effective as when you hold them up to the light to conduct a light test, it will shine through.   The most effective cloth masks are made of 2-layer or 3-layer fabrics with a filter slot for added protection.  Additionally, your cloth mask should conform to the contours of your face;  it should have adjustable ear loops, and it should fight tightly over the bridge of your nose.    Filters available online should have at least a PR rating of 2.5.   Home-made filters can be created out of coffee filters, vacuum clear bags, HEPA furnace filters, or HVAC anti-allergy filters and implemented for face masks as long as the wearer places their custom filter into between a minimum of 2-layers of cotton material.

References (1):  https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/coronavirus/coronavirus-face-masks-what-you-need-to-know

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