Masks: What you should – and should not – be wearing
Not just any mask will do when it comes to COVID-19. The previous advice that any face covering is better than nothing has been found to be incorrect. “With more science and knowledge behind us, we’re getting better at what we recommend and what’s safe,” said Saria Saccocio, MD, Prisma Health Ambulatory Chief Medical Officer.
In addition to social distancing and good hand hygiene, an effective face covering is important in preventing the spread of COVID-19. Dr. Saccocio explained what to look for.
What types of masks should you choose?
Dr. Saccocio said surgical masks or cloth face coverings are good choices. “You want to make sure you choose a mask with multiple layers that is relatively form fitting around your nose and your mouth. Both should be covered. Wearing a mask around your neck is not protective against COVID.”
Even if you are wearing a face shield, a cloth mask should be worn underneath.
What types of masks should you avoid?
Dr. Saccocio said it’s best to stay away from these types of masks:
Masks with vents. Masks with exhalation filter vents are intended for industrial environments. They’re designed to prevent things from getting in and not to keep things from getting out. We need to make sure we’re not pushing out droplets through the exhalation filter.
Bandanas. A handkerchief tied around your face is not enough. It needs to have multiple layers and be form fitting around your nose and mouth.
Neck gaiters. A gaiter is a fabric tube that you slide over your head and pull up over your mouth and nose. A recent study found that wearing gaiters as masks was almost worse than wearing nothing. Gaiters break the respiratory droplets into smaller droplets, so they stay suspended in the air longer and become a bigger risk.
“If you see someone wearing a neck gaiter, there’s a very good chance they have respiratory droplets that are passing through that material, and one of the big reasons for that is the lack of layers,” said Dr. Saccocio. “That’s why it’s recommended by the CDC to have multiple layers in your mask, because you can run the same risk with a cloth mask if you don’t have multiple layers. It’s just not an effective filter.”
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