The ongoing shortage of N95 face masks has led to many people looking for alternatives. That’s led to many individuals and companies alike designing masks and selling them too.
There are also concerns about disposable face masks. Many of them have been ending up in oceans and landfills.
Changing guidance on what to wear also makes it tougher to choose the right face covering. So, which face masks are good and which ones are bad face masks? It’s an important question.
This guide will help you figure what not to wear, as well as which options you should be thinking about.
Masks with Vents Pose Risks
One of the concerns people have is the breathability of masks. Some may choose masks with vents or valves, believing these increase their safety. They may feel the “high-tech” design will offer better protection.
Some people may have picked some up because they were available when non-valved N95 masks weren’t.
These masks aren’t designed for medical use. They’re more appropriate for dusty environments, like construction sites.
In terms of COVID-19, the CDC says these masks could actually pose more risk to your health. The vents and valves allow virus-carrying droplets to move through them freely. If someone sneezes, the vent or valve will let the virus escape.
That’s bad news if you’re trying to stop potential transmission to others. Even if other people are wearing masks, they could still get infected.
In response to the CDC’s guidance, some airlines have banned masks with vents or valves. The CDC recommends cloth masks or medical masks, which don’t have these openings.
Masks that have valves or openings designed to let the wearer eat or drink present similar risks. They should not be used.
Neck Gaiters Make Bad Face Masks
Early in the pandemic, some people suggested that bandanas and neck gaiters could be good alternatives. This was especially the case if other mask options weren’t readily available.
The logic here is that any face covering is better than no face covering. A new study is calling that into question. Researchers revealed that the fabric used could actually help spread the virus.
The study showed that this material broke up large droplets into a spray. This spray can linger in the air for hours after. The smaller droplets are lighter and less likely to fall to the ground.
The researchers suggested that neck gaiters made from this kind of material may be “worse than nothing.”
They also noted that some neck gaiters may be helpful. It depends, of course, on what they’re made out of. Correct use is also important.
Not All Cloth Masks Are Equal
The problem with neck gaiters is somewhat applicable to cloth face masks too. Not all cloth face masks make good barriers.
The problem is that fabric is porous. That means virus-carrying droplets can move through it. So long as the droplets are large, cloth can provide a somewhat effective barrier against them.
Many fabrics are “breathable,” which means they’re more porous. They may allow even large droplets to escape.
There’s considerable debate about just how effective cloth masks are. Concerns include the porousness of fabric, especially when you use something like an old t-shirt. Some experts say they don’t believe single-layer masks would be effective.
Others recommend layering breathable fabrics like cotton. These dual-layered masks won’t stop everything, but research suggests they do stop most droplets.
Other good fabrics to use include polyester and silk. In fact, silk was better at stopping drops than both cotton and polyester.
Using polyester and cotton in layers also increases the chance that the mask will be effective. These fabrics are still breathable too. The CDC suggests they’re cooler and more comfortable than the N95 masks.
Masks made from extremely porous materials, like lace, should not be used. They don’t provide an effective barrier, even if they look pretty.
What about Face Shields?
Another popular option has been what are known as face shields. These are plastic barriers fitted to a headpiece. The headpiece is set on the head, and the plastic barrier hangs down in front of the wearer’s face.
Medical professionals have donned face shields, usually in addition to masks. They’re great at stopping large droplets, but they’re less helpful when it comes to aerosols.
That means face shields alone may not offer enough protection. This is especially true as scientists are still unsure about the role aerosols play in virus transmission. The virus may be present in aerosols projected when infected people speak, sing, or laugh.
Face shields do offer some protection, but best practice says you should use them with a mask.
What Does Work?
All this discussion about bad face masks can leave you scratching your head. What does actually work?
Researchers still say fitted N95 masks without valves and surgical masks are the safest bet. Reusable cloth masks can also be good options. That’s especially true when these masks are made from layered fabrics like polyester and cotton.
You should also look for masks that are waterproof. This increases their resistance to transmission. Antimicrobial masks are also a good option.
Don’t forget the importance of having a mask that fits. Masks should fit the face, and they should cover your chin and nose.
Wearing a mask is just one step to take in protecting yourself and your loved ones. Taking other steps, such as increasing handwashing and social distancing, can also help keep you safe.
Protecting Your Health is Always in Style
There are plenty of bad face masks out there, so you need to be aware of what works and what doesn’t. Choosing the right mask and making sure it fits are key steps to keeping yourself safe.
Do you need a breathable face mask for everyday use? Check out the shop for some of the best masks available. Staying safe can be this comfortable.