Before COVID19, wearing a face mask was reserved for medical practitioners or trendy South Korean fashion icons. However, after COVID19 struck, face masks have become an essential life item. Let’s explore a beginner’s introduction to face masks below:
How do face masks work?
In the simplest of words, covering your face with a mask prevents you from transferring droplets from your mouth to others and protects you from being infected by those sprayed by others during talking or sneezing or coughing, etc. Since we can also get infected by touching our faces with our dirty hands, it puts an additional barrier between our faces and those germs.
When should you wear a face mask?
The popular misconception is that you only have to wear a face mask when you are around other people. While it holds partial truth, there are a bit more complications.
- Even if you are wearing a mask, the other person might not be. So you have to maintain a distance from them of about two meters, even with your mask on.
- If both of you are wearing masks, the need for a 2-meter distance is significantly decreased.
- If you are in an open space, you can take off your mask when you are not around people.
- If you are in a closed space, you should not take off your mask even when you are alone. This is because tiny aerosols, microdroplets, can be suspended in the air for up to hours!
- If you are in a place with air conditioning and poor ventilation, do not take your mask off. For example, on a bus or an airplane. Even if you are not sitting next to or within 2 meters of a person who is carrying the virus, the virus can still reach you through the aerosols flying around due to the air conditioning.
Do face masks work?
Yes and no. Face masks are the most effective prevention against COVID19 when coupled with social distancing and regular hand washing/ sanitizing. You cannot choose one part of this triangle and be safe. They work together to ensure the most safety. Moreover, if the person who is carrying the virus wears a face mask, they reduce the risk of transmission to the bare minimum! Considering that COVID19 carriers can be asymptomatic, the risk of not wearing a mask and unknowingly spread the virus is too great. One of the most recommended face mask is this one.
What types of masks are there?
- Paper Mask: It is breathable, loose, and cheap. But it has no filter and offers virtually no protection from COVID19.
- Cloth Mask: It is breathable, fashionable, reusable, and does a great job at filtering large droplets and some aerosols as well. However, use the multi-layered ones to create a quasi-filter.
- Surgical Mask: It fits over the mouth and nose. It has inbuilt filters, is cheap, and helps prevent the spread of large respiratory droplets and aerosols when the wearer coughs or sneezes. This is the most feasible option.
- N95 Mask: It is the most effective option. It fits tightly, has barely any leakage, and filter up to 95 percent of all particles including the tiniest aerosols.
The Psychological factor
- Wearing a face mask makes you feel confident to interact with people even during this unpredictable time. You feel accomplished and a worthy member of the community who is doing their job to ensure everyone’s safety.
- Seeing other people wear a mask enables the group-think mentality and encourages people to wear one too, even if they were hesitant earlier. All those celebrities posing with masks helped expand this and convert it into a trendy practice. Simply said, no one wants to be the black sheep so people choose to conform and in this case, you save others by doing so!
- There has been a depressive factor of fearing masks, especially the surgical and N95 ones. It creates a dystopian sense of gloom and hopelessness. Going out and finding the majority in masks makes the virus seem larger than life and even the only pressing matter of the times. While it is true that COVID19 has overtaken a lot of our lives, but it is also true that human beings still have the potential for hope and creativity despite that. The virus cannot take that from us.
- Not being able to see other people’s expressions while talking has also introduced miscommunication and taken away an essential element of human contact. For the deaf community who relied on sign language or the autistic community who had trouble discerning emotions already, the face masks have become a barrier to entry from human communication.
- The fashionable options have taken a jab at resolving the issue discussed earlier. People have come up with creative, beautiful, funny, and even glamorous masks. These new healthy fashion statements lift the gloom from this otherwise medical chore and add color to life. Many fashion brands have started producing matching masks with their outfits and many artists have taken creative liberties by creating larger than life statements through face masks! For example, the silicon mask is being used in protests to save protesters from facial recognition and as a protest against massive surveillance in the first place. How ingenious!
How to solve the frustrating things about wearing a mask?
Long term use of face masks can cause discomfort. But stay committed because there are solutions to alleviate the most common frustrations.
- Ear pain and skin sensitivity
If the mask is too tight, get creative with the straps. Find an adjustment that works for you. Choose natural materials like cotton to keep your skin safe.
- Foggy glasses
Wash your glass with soap water. Fit your mask so that the top is tighter than the bottom.
- Breathing trouble
Practice deep, mindful breathing, or make sure to take breaks from your mask in safe places.
Regularly wash your cloth masks, replace your surgical mask, and wash your face. Avoid wearing makeup under the mask.
Wearing a mask is an act of kindness. You are protecting yourself and others simultaneously. Do your part and wear a mask. 🙂