Masks have been proved effective in controlling the spread of Coronavirus. A research indicates that places where masks weren’t recommended saw  a 55 percent weekly increase in coronavirus deaths per capita against the 7 percent in countries with cultures or guidelines supporting mask-wearing. However, not all masks confer equal levels of protection.

The main purpose of mask is to block large respiratory droplets from coughs or sneezes – along with smaller airborne particles, called aerosols, produced when people talk or exhale and that’s what an ideal mask does. 

Medical masks are recommended by the WHO for healthcare workers, elderly people, people with underlying health conditions, and people who have tested positive for the coronavirus or show symptoms. The ones who do not fall into aforementioned categories should adhere to fabric masks. Let’s have a look at which are the most effective ones :-

N95 mask

One of the major reasons N99 and N95 masks are recommended  for healthcare workers first is its effectiveness. The risk of infection is reduced by 94 to 99 percent with N99 masks whilst N95 offers minimum of 95 percent efficiency at filtering aerosols. 

Disposable surgical masks 

After N95 and N99, surgical masks are considered to be a safe option..These masks are made of nonwoven fabric. They are three times more effective than the homemade face masks at blocking virus-containing aerosols. 

“Hybrid” masks 

Hybrid masks are the safest homemade masks as they contain  two layers of 600-thread-count cotton with another material like silk, chiffon, or flannel – filtered more than 80 percent of small particles (less than 300 nanometres) and more than 90 percent of larger particles (bigger than 300 nanometres).

Three layers of cotton or silk 

The  next in the list are three layered cotton or silk masks. The inner layer absorbs, the middle one filters whilst the outer layer is made from a nonabsorbent material like polyester which helps in filtering aerosols effectively. 

Vaccum cleaner bags 

These are the DIY alternative to surgical masks..A study conducted by the Journal of Hospital Infection found that vacuum-cleaner bags (or vacuum-cleaner filters inserted in a cloth mask) reduced infection risk by 83 percent after 30 seconds of exposure to the coronavirus and by 58 percent after 20 minutes of exposure in a highly contaminated environment.

Tea Towels/Antimicrobial pillowcases

Not an ideal material but still Tea towels and antimicrobial pillowcases are better than a single layer of cotton.

Although, wrapping a scarf or cotton T-shirt around your nose and mouth isn’t particularly effective at filtering the coronavirus, but it’s still better than nothing.

Also, it is worth noting that single layer cotton masks are preferable to single layer paper masks. In a study conducted by the UK researchers, it was found that those who wore cotton masks had a 54 percent lower chance of infection than people who wore no masks at all. 

Furthermore, it is not just about which mask you wear but how you wear it that matters as well. 

The protectiveness of a mask – including N95 and surgical masks – declines considerably when there is a gap between the mask and the skin.

(This article was originally published in businessinsider)

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