Mask-mize your appeal!!!
The summer has landed and with it a glimmer of hope for some return to normality – a small gathering with friends, a long awaited visit to that vulnerable relative we have been longing to see or simply a trip to the local garden centre to lift our spirits. With the excitement of all these adventures ahead undoubtedly comes fear – fear for ourselves, fear for our loved ones and fear for every person we will encounter along the way. And so we ask ourselves ‘what can I do to best ensure I do not transmit or contract Covid-19 on my travels’?
Face masks, in combination with good hand hygiene and social distancing are undoubtedly an excellent place to start. That said, from adds on Instagram of people wrapping old knickers around their mouth to others looking like they are about to land on the moon we cannot mask our uncertainty – what face mask should I be wearing and how do I use my mask safely and efficiently? Let’s break it down…
Surgical Face Masks
Surgical face masks are the type most of us would be familiar with prior to this pandemic – be that from Scrubs, Grey’s anatomy or a dreaded visit to the dentist’s chair. They are a loose fitting mask that create a physical barrier between the nose and mouth of the wearer and the environment. The World Health Organisation recommend only using surgical masks if you have a fever, cough, or other respiratory symptoms or if you are well but caring for someone with a respiratory illness.
However, there is growing evidence that support the concept of having everyone in a public setting wear a face mask to decrease the overall risk of contracting the virus. Professor of immunology at Trinity college, Luke O’Neill, is a massive advocate of this proposal where possible with the situation in Taiwan supporting this idea. This entire country has a mere seven deaths attributed to Covid-19 and part of this is undoubtedly due to every individual being provided with face masks.
When worn correctly these three-ply masks will help block large-particle droplets, splashes, sprays or splatter that may contain germs, viruses and bacteria, keeping it from reaching your mouth and nose. They will also help reduce exposure of your saliva and respiratory secretions to others. It is important to note that because a surgical mask does not form a tight seal it cannot ensure full protection from small airborne particles and so ensuring good hand hygiene and social distancing practices are adhered to is paramount.
Some important practice points when using a surgical mask
- Wash hands in accordance with HSE guidelines prior to fitting your mask.
- The coloured side of the mask faces out.
- Bend the metal strip if present so it fits over the bridge of the nose.
- Loop ear loops around each ear or if ties are present tie in a secure bow behind the head.
- Each mask is for SINGLE USE only. If the mask gets dirty or wet replace promptly with a new one.
- Once secure do not touch the mask.
- Dispose of mask after use and wash hands thoroughly.
Respiratory face masks (N95, KN95, FFP2 etc)
Respiratory face masks are a more fitted type of face mask with a greater level of filtration. Under this term come a number of different letters and numbers which are understandably confusing for the consumer. Despite many different codes being used the logic behind the coding is very simple when explained.
The first part of the code will simply denote where the mask has been produced. The second part, the number, signifies the filtration effectiveness. For example, an N95 mask will stop at least 95% of small particles >0.3 microns in size, as will a KN95. The only difference in these masks is the first is of USA standards and the latter of Chinese standards. In Europe we use a numerical rating FFP1, FFP2 and FFP3. The equivalent to an N95 being the FFP2, also filtrating 95% of particles. These masks are generally circular or oval in shape and designed to form a tight seal to your face. By and large these masks are reserved for healthcare workers during times like these but may be used by the general public if deemed appropriate.
Some practice points for wearing a respiratory face mask;
- Ensure a tight seal is created around the nose and mouth
- Mask may be re-used once not spoiled in any way and when great care is taken between uses.
- Hang used respirators in a designated storage area or keep them in a clean, breathable container such as a paper bag between uses
- Clean hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer before and after touching or adjusting the respirator if necessary for comfort or to maintain fit
- Avoid touching the inside of the respirator. If contact is made with the inside of the respirator, discard the respirator and perform hand hygiene as described above.
- These masks are not suitable for people who have breathing difficulties
Homemade face masks
Get those creative juices flowing!! It may sometimes be hard to get your hands on surgical masks and so wearing a homemade cloth face covering in public settings is certainly a very wise and often more frugal move. Cloth face coverings should;
- Fit snugly but comfortably against the face
- Be secured with ties or ear loops
- Include multiple layers of fabric where possible
- Allow for breathing without restriction
- Be able to be washed and dried without damage or change to shape
- Be washed after every use using soap or detergent and water
Whichever method of protection you use it is still of utmost important you adhere to all the guidelines as outlined by the government and HSE so we can continue to slow and hopefully stop the spread of Covid19 – we are all in this together!!
For more information on the various types of masks and their use during these times click on the following links;