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Face Masks

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A mask is a simple means to prevent the spread of the disease to your surroundings. For healthy individuals, an ordinary mask does not have the same protective effect as special masks with nanofibers (with possible copper or silver elements) or the standard FFP2 and FFP3 respirators. How much can masks help against the influenza, (corona)viruses, or bacteria? What are their advantages and disadvantages? Read on to learn how to best protect yourself.

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What are masks for and what are their advantages and disadvantages?

The primary purpose of the mask is to prevent the spread of microorganisms from you to others - the wearer therefore protects other people from himself. Your personal protection from disease is secondary and only partial. The mask’s filtering capabilities also aren’t perfect. When worn outdoors, it will protect you from high aerosol concentrations and infected droplets, but it won’t help if you stay in contact with an infected person for a long time. On that note, what are the advantages and disadvantages of a face mask?

  • Protects the people around you from your viruses and bacteria.
  • Made of antiallergic material.
  • Very easy to use.
  • Light and latex-free.
  • Does not seal the area around your nose and mouth.
  • The material can’t filter tiny microorganisms.
  • Your breath moistens it, making it lose its filtering ability.
  • Needs to be changed quite often.

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Will wearing a mask protect you against the coronavirus or should you opt for a respirator?

Ordinary masks are effective only if potentially infected people use them. During the pandemic this applies to virtually everyone, since many cases are asymptomatic. The mask simply prevents the spread of the disease by droplets to others. However, a healthy person does not gain a 100% protection against the disease. This can only be done by respirators that filter viruses, bacteria, and other harmful particles. On the other hand, respirators do not have a filtered exhalation valve, so if you are already infected and wear a respirator, you can spread the disease further even if you have no symptoms.

  • FFP3 respirators, which is the highest filtration class, provide reliable protection against the coronavirus.
  • With FFP2 respirators, the risk of infection is up to 10%. FFP1 respirators only protect against dust.
  • Note that respirators without a replaceable filter are not reusable. The respirator will protect you only once, for a maximum of 24 hours.

Basic materials – paper and cloth masks

When buying masks, you will usually see two types of materials – paper or non-woven fabric. Never wash disposable masks and always discard them after use. Cloth masks are reusable if you boil and then iron the fabric.

Disposable paper masks

Paper masks are for single use only. The main purpose of this protective device is to protect the environment from aerosol spreading. In addition, disposable masks last only a few hours, then you must throw them away. This disposable category includes surgical masks.

What is an aerosol? It is a suspension of small liquid or solid particles in air or another gas that are produced by coughing and sneezing. These microdroplets become infectious if the person is infected.

Nanofibre fabric captures microorganisms and can be used repeatedly – though there is one downside

Nanofiber masks use carbon membranes to capture a high percentage of odours, viruses, and bacteria. These fibers form an additional protective barrier. If the mask contains silver or copper nanoparticles, the microorganisms have trouble surviving. Silver has a general antibacterial effect, while copper is coronavirus unfriendly - more specifically, the viral particles die after about 4 hours. Nanofiber masks are used by the military, firefighters, doctors, or people living in heavily polluted areas.

A copper nanofiber mask can withstand the coronavirus repeatedly, usually lasting up to 24 hours. If you wear it 3 hours a day, it will last you about 8 days.

Cloth masks can be used repeatedly

A cloth mask must be made of 100% cotton, since it must be sterilised at high temperatures. Its main advantages include reuse, long life, and minimal environmental impact. Your DIY mask must be sterilised after every use. Immerse it in boiling water (for at least 5 minutes) and then allow it to cool in the water. Disposable masks, on the other hand, must be safely discarded immediately after the first use.

  • Can be used repeatedly.
  • Long life.
  • Eco-friendly.
  • Can be easily made at home.
  • Mainly serves to protect other people.
  • Effective only in combination with good hygiene.

Disposable surgical mask
Disposable Surgical Mask

Cloth drape
Cloth Mask

Drape of nanofibers
Nanofiber Mask

How do I wear and care for my mask properly?

Simply wearing a mask or respirator isn’t enough, as proper hygiene, storage, and handling of your protective equipment is equally important. Wondering what’s the trick for wearing a mask properly? Read on for some helpful tips.

  1. Masks are only effective if you combine them with proper hygiene. Frequent and thorough hand washing is important.
  2. Wash your hands before putting on a mask and cover your mouth and nose carefully.
  3. Note that there must be no gap between the skin and the protective equipment.
  4. Do not touch the mask after you’ve put it on. If you do touch it, wash your hands afterwards.
  5. Once your mask becomes moist, change it. Never wear a disposable mask repeatedly.
  6. Remove the mask from the back and don’t touch the face part. If your mask has rubber bands, remove it by holding it by the rubber bands.

Face masks must be used correctly – change them often and put them on while maintaining the necessary precautions. That said, it’s always better to have some mask on than none at all.

So wearing a mask isn’t pointless?

A protective mask does not help as much as a respirator, but don’t underestimate its importance. The golden rule is ‘I protect you, you protect me’. These protective devices prevent the spread of the disease into your surroundings, which prevents people from infecting each other. However, you must also take care to wear, handle, change, and sterilise them properly, and observe strict hygiene.

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