COVID-19 (caused by SARS-Cov-2 virus) is a new disease to all of us. We all are terrified of its acute infectious power and due to lack of specific treatment. So far, according to the latest guideline, the only way to survive from corona is to prevent infection.
Let me say at the outset, the Face Mask alone will not save you from Corona. We also need:
- Proper Hand hygiene (wash with soap water /sanitize with 70% alcohol based sanitizer)
- Physical distancing (at least 6feet / 2meter ) – Most effective preventive measure,
- Eye protection
A) Why Masks?
According to the data available so far, the virus spreads in two ways:
- By droplet/aerosol (produced during coughing, sneezing, even during talking).
- By fomites (any inanimate objects that carry the virus).
The virus does not enter the body through the intact skin of our body. It enters through open mucous membranes of mouth, nose, eyes. So before putting your hand on the face, you have to be careful, you have to sanitize your hands.
Mask gives protection in 2 ways.
- Directly droplet cannot enter through your nose, mouth.
- Indirectly, the mask creates a barrier on your face, so that you avoid touching nose, mouth you’re your contaminated hands.
Human behavioral study says, a normal human touches his/her face 16 times/hour)
B) Types of Masks:
As per filtration capacity (and level of protection) masks can be of different types.
In COVID Pandemic, WHO and CDC mentioned about 3 types of masks.
- N 95 Respirator:Can be of 2 types—Valved and without a valve.
Valved: Affords only one way filtration i.e. it filters inhaled air but not the exhaled air, it gives protection to the wearer only and it is not recommended in COVID pandemic.
Without valve: It offers 2 way filtration of inflow and outflow air, so it is safe for wearer and also for people around.
- MedicalMask: Can be Bi-layered/Tri-layered.
- Cloth Mask
Advantages vs disadvantages of different types of mask
|N95 mask||Medical Mask||Cloth mask|
|filters 95% of small droplets of 100- 300 nm size||· Costly,
· Uncomfortable to wear,
· Limited supply
· Not washable
· Requires Fit test.
|· More comfortable than N 95,
· Less expensive than N 95
|· Less filtration than N95
· Not washable; single use
|· Less expensive
· Can be made of materials available at home.
|· Less filtration capacity than Medical mask / N95|
|Why cloth mask is recommended for community use?
C) How long can a mask be worn?
- Medical mask /N95, can be used continuously for 6 – 8 hours.
- There is no study for a cloth mask, but if the mask is wet with sweat, change it. If you stay out for more than 6 hours, carry an extra mask in the bag.
D) Mask wearing and removing rules:
a) Wash/sanitize your hands before wearing the mask.
b) Without touching the flat part of the mask, tie the elastic band/ribbon.
c) Pull the mask up and down and cover the nose and mouth well.
d) If there is a fitting strip on the nose, press it.
e) Avoid touching the mask while outside.
f) If you have to touch it, sanitize your hands before and after touching the mask.
|Removing rules: This is very important,
E) Some important tips:
- Those who are going out, take 4 to 5 masks per head and number them 1, 2, 3, 4…… After using for 4 consecutive days, wear the No 1 mask again on the 5th day. The masks will be in good condition and effective for a long time. Reusing the same mask in a row, may spread infection.
- If you want to make cloth mask effective, keep some things in mind–
- –Cover the face well (it is better to be tight sealed)
- Multiple layering–use of multiple types of fabrics.
- None of these have been standardized though,yet, remember, the cloth mask is better than No mask,
- Keep the masks in a designated place at home or workplace. Scattering here and there must be avoided. Keep away from children.
- Do not share your mask with anyone.
- No exercise or jogging with themask on. It may cause hypoxia.
- If you have a headache with the mask on, consult a doctor at the earliest.
- Can use a face shield over the mask. Face shield can be easily made with OHP sheet/transparent plastic sheets. Youtube is full of demo videos.
- Don’t put the mask down on the chin, otherwise the virus may be indirectly transferred from the front surface of the mask to the face.
- Cover the eyes: use glasses, goggles, sunglasses or face shield.
- If you are confused about the kind of mask right for you,then you must consult your doctor.
- To reuse Medical mask / N95, leave it in the paper bag for at least 5 days, so that the virus is automatically inactivated.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], who should not wear a mask ?
– Babies under 2years of age.
– Those who are suffering from respiratory diseases.
– Those who are unable to remove the mask themselves.
|REMEMBER, NO MASK GIVES FULL PROTECTION. SO DON’T ENJOY A FALSE SENSE OF SECURITY BY WEARING A MASK.
ALONG WITH MASK, PHYSICAL DISTANCING, HAND HYGIENE AND EYE PROTECTION ARE ALSO NECESSARY.
First published in the Rational Drug Bulletin, Volume 29, Issue 3, July-September 2020.