Coronavirus pandemic has been here for more than a year and now that vaccines and treatments are available to cure illness, but that doesn’t mean we stop taking precautions. There have been several debates about face masks and it is high time that all those social media myths are resolved. Being informed about the risk and its precautionary steps from a reliable source like WHO, UNICEF etc, is important to prevent you from mis-guidance and adverse events.

Most viruses and bacteria get transmitted through the nose and mouth even in the absence or presence of people around us. Since the virus often enters through the respiratory system, you are advised to cover the openings that are directly related to inhaling and respiration. When you wear a mask, you not only protect yourself but also others around you from the infectious pathogens that might spread through the air exhaled.

The Science behind facemasks

The fabric of  masks acts as a filter and stop most of the bacteria and viruses from entering our bodies. With the mask as a boundary, there is no direct contact with the contaminated air and pathogenic respiratory droplets (if any) which get transmitted while talking, sneezing, coughing, or yawning.

Who should and should not wear masks?

In the current situation, everyone is suggested to wear masks irrespective of whether you are infected, recovered, in company of those infected or a completely healthy person. If you have any breathing issues, refrain from stepping out and consult medical expertise as soon as possible.

Children below two years of age are not supposed to wear facemasks. Children of two years and above should be trained to keep their masks on their faces, a fact which tends to get ignored often even by adults.

Facemasks are mandatory whenever:

  • We are in a company of people
  • In a public place/ event
  • We are interacting with anyone who is showing Covid-19 symptoms or has been detected positive

Types of Facemasks (note these features while buying masks) :

  • FFP2, FFP3, N95, N99 masks which are used mostly during medical situations and by health workers
  • Cotton masks which are at least 2 or 3 layered and are washable
  • One-time use medical masks having 3 layers of synthetic nonwoven materials.*(Source)

Things that are NOT facemasks

  • Your scarf, handkerchief, or any other clothing
  • Masks made of plastic, synthetic or woollen fibres
  • Masks that have only a single layer
  • Masks with vents or valves

PS: Face Shields or social distancing do not substitute for masks.

The correct way of wearing masks

  1. Wash hands before touching the mask
  2. Hold it by the loops
  3. Fit the mask securely near the bridge of the nose. The mask should reach the chin and have proper coverage without any gaps.
  4. The loops should be used while removing the mask, touching the fabric is to be avoided at all costs.
  5. Wash or sanitize hands after removing the mask.

Keeping masks safe

  • Reusable face masks must be washed daily after wearing. Whenever new ones are bought, those are to be washed before use.
  • Medical masks should be thrown after using.
  • No mask should be worn for a very long period.
  • They are to be stored in clean, germ-free areas. One has to be cautious not to put masks into pockets or bags but have a separate space/ pouch for storage. Keeping bare masks on tables, chairs, counters, etc. should be avoided.

Complications after wearing a mask

  • Rashes and itchiness are common side-effects of wearing masks. The reason can be the type of fabric. Cotton and soft materials are advised to be used.
  • Difficulties in breathing might be a result during initial times but one has to get used to it. If the problem is stemming from some respiratory complications, a medical consultation is suggested.

DIY facemasks)

Although it is not recommended to make face masks at home, it is very much possible. As stated by the UNICEF, masks can be made if these steps are followed:

  1. 18 to 20cm of a  piece of tee-shirt cloth is cut
  2. Around 15 to 18 cm is kept for face coverage and the remaining is drawn into loops for support.
  3. The main area should be added with more layers of cloth for effective resistance.

Points to be minded by retailers

  • Proper materials being used for the facemasks
  • Maintenance of hygiene protocols by makers
  • Packing is done in clean, sanitized boxes
  • An instruction page can be added with the package for the user’s guide.

Bottom line:

Facemasks are equally vital even when we are fully vaccinated or have been infected with the virus once. Apart from the covid-19 virus, allergies and dust particles can also be prevented by using masks. Not going outdoors unnecessarily, maintaining social distance, avoiding public places or large gatherings, regular washing of hands, proper sanitization, wearing gloves, and face shields are also to be followed.

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