The UK government have announced that members of the public should cover their face in public to help reduce the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). There are several masks available from different outlets, but which face mask should you wear?
What is the difference in face masks?
Respirator masks are secured tightly around the face and have an adjustable clip around the nose so that few particles can enter. They are available in different models, including N95 (FFP2), N99 and N100. The coronavirus particle is thought to be around 125 nano meters in size. This means that respirators provide a high level of protection against COVID-19.
- N95 masks can filter 95% of particles that range in size from 100nm to 300nm
- N99 masks can filter up to 99% of similar particles
- N100 respirators have the ability to filter up to 99.7% if such particles
Respirator masks are able to provide a higher level of protection against viruses. They are usually marked with an approval rating (N95, KN95, FFP2 etc.).
Respirators can also come valved or unvalved. A valve helps to release air on the exhale, which can reduce sweat build up and reduce stuffiness. Unvalved masks are lighter and less bulky, making them easier to transport.
Surgical masks are also available in different variations. They are designed to prevent large droplets such as mucous or spit, being expelled from the user. Whilst surgical masks offer an element of protection, they are not effective in filtering small particles in the air. A Type IIR surgical face mask offers more protection against splashes and is considered to be fluid resistant.
Are Face Masks effective in protecting against coronavirus?
Face masks will help prevent contracting and transmitting coronavirus. In fact, any form of covering over your face will be effective. Coronavirus is spread through inhalation or contact with droplets of the virus. Wearing a face mask will prevent a large percentage of droplets from entering the respiratory system. Whilst masks are unable to provide 100% protection, they will most certainly reduce the risk of infection.
Can you reuse a face mask?
You should not reuse a face mask. They are intended for single use as masks may be contaminated with infected droplets. You should not touch the front of a face mask, and it should be taken off from the ear straps. You should wash your hands before and after taking a mask off. The structural integrity of a mask may also be compromised once it has been used, which can make it less effective when using again.
What else can I do to protect myself?
Practising social distancing can reduce the transmission of COVID-19. Regularly washing your hands and avoiding touching your face will also help to reduce transmission of virus droplets. Wearing disposable gloves when going into public places and using hand sanitiser throughout the day is good practise.