Essentials

Which Face Mask Should You Buy?

The recent happenings in the world, especially the pandemic situation, require us all to be more careful about our health and hygiene. Social distancing, hand washing, and overall cleanliness are habits that we need to follow for our own good. One of the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended healthcare essentials is the face mask. However, there are also several types of face masks for sale in Sri Lanka. For our safety, we need to select the face masks that do their job properly. 

In fact, there are several points to consider when buying a face mask. You need to make sure that you are buying the proper, standard masks that protect you. So, it is better that you are aware of the following.

Should You Wear a Mask? Why? 

YES!

We do not know which person is carrying a risk. We do not even know whether we ourselves are carrying a risk. So, we should wear a mask to protect ourselves as well as to protect others. This is a must if you are in a public place. Restaurants, public transportation, school, office, shops, malls, are some common places where you are at high risk.  

Why do we need to wear a face mask? What does it do? It can prevent us from sending out respiratory droplets that can transmit the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The issue is, no one knows they have COVID-19 unless they do a test. In fact, some people do not even experience any symptom. So, imagine how harmful it can be if a COVID-19 patient visits public places without a mask, without knowing he or she is positive. 

What’s the Right Way to Wear a Face Mask?

How to wear a mask properly
How to wear a mask properly (Source: UT Southwestern Medical Center)

The face mask should cover your face from the bridge of your nose to under your chin. It can be a little loose. However, it should be secure enough so that it stays in place. There is no point in wearing one if it does not cover either your mouth or nose or both. 

At the same time, make sure you do not experience any irritation wearing it. If you do, you will be tempted to touch the mask every now and then. That will reduce the effect of wearing the mask. In fact, it will put you at risk if the mask causes you to touch your face and adjust it all the time.   

What are the Features of a Good, Proper Face Mask? 

  • Covers nose and mouth properly without large gaps
  • Fits the face of the wearer
  • Availability of loops or ties to adjust 

The mask should also cup tightly to your face. Then, there will be no leaks through gaps. 

At the same time, it is more effective if the mask has pleats or folds. The folds expand when you wear.  

Most significantly, the mask should be clean. You can wash them with soap, detergent,and hot water. On the other hand, completely dry it before reusing. In fact, a wet mask can help microorganisms grow. 

neck gaiter, KN95 respirator, surgical mask, cloth mask
Left to right: a neck gaiter, a KN95 respirator, a pleated surgical mask (below the KN95) a cloth mask.
(Source: Max Posner/NPR)

What Masks are NOT RECOMMENDED?

Despite the availability of several types of face masks in Sri Lanka, not all are effective. There are some types of masks, although they cover your face / nose and mouth, are not effective. 

  • Bandanas
  • Neck gaiters 
  • Masks with valves

Healthcare authorities do not recommend these three types of face masks. They DO NOT perform as good as the proper recommended face masks. 

  • A bandanna is open at the bottom. So, potentially infected droplets can still spread from the opening.
  • A gaiter is too thin. So, the potentially infected droplets can still spread.

(A gaiter is a tube of thin, stretchy knit fabric one wears around the neck. You can pull it up to cover the nose and mouth) 

  • Masks with exhalation valves allow your droplets to escape into the air.

What are the Recommended Face Mask Types?

Fabric

fabric cloth face mask
Fabric Mask (Source: Quality Logo Products)

A fabric mask should have a minimum of two fabric layers. The more the layers, the better it filters. It should also be washable and breathable. 

At the same time, the fabric of the mask should be of a tight weave. To check it,  hold it up to a light. If you can easily see through it, or see the individual fibers, that mask will not filter properly. 

Medical 

KN95 mask and surgical mask
A KN95 mask and a surgical mask (Source: Max Posner/NPR)

The KN95 mask and the surgical mask are the available medical masks in the market. They are disposable. You wear them loosely around the face. They protect other people from the wearer. They also block a majority of respiratory droplets released by an infected person. Medical care workers use these types of masks because they are the most effective. 

What’s a Face Shield and Should You Wear One?

face shield
Face Shield (Source: Amazon)

A face shield is a piece of rigid, clear plastic. It is attached to a headband that the person wears on their head. The piece of plastic covers the whole face, and extends below the chin. 

If you maintain social distancing while wearing a mask, you are good to go. However, if you need extra protection, you can always go for a face shield.

So, when you select a mask for you, consider all conditions mentioned above. Based on your face shape, size, your lifestyle – whether you meet a lot of people on a daily basis – etc. select the mask that suits you the best.  In selecting one, make sure to get one that is of proper quality and standard. This way, you can protect both yourself and others around you. 

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