Most of us haven’t worn a mask in our entire life till the pandemic hit us. When there is a compulsion to something, many businesses exploit the public with their promotional articles to increase sales. Let’s break these myths and uncover the truth and understand WHO’s stand on cotton cloth masks made of cotton.
Who, When, And Where?
WHO recommends that any person who has to go out in public, where crowding cannot be avoided, should wear a mask compulsorily.
It’s advisable to keep the mask on as long as possible, and you are allowed to take a mask break when you are alone in a confined place like in a bathroom stall, changing room, or your office cabin.
It’s important to wear a face mask as soon as you step outside your home and dispose of the used mask in a sealed trash can as soon as you re-enter.
Is a Mask Alone Enough to Prevent COVID?
The answer is a simple no. A mask is mainly used for preventing the spread of water droplets when you speak, sneeze or cough. It’s important to follow other safety measures such as sanitizing your hands, washing clothes immediately after you come back home in hot water, taking a bath, sanitizing the belongings that had been out with you.
The Q Factor
Scientists have intensely tested various mask fabrics and generally termed the quality factor as the Q factor.
They suggested that any mask that can be deemed “Safe” against the COVID spread should have a Q factor as three or high. They have informed that a mask should be made of three layers.
- Inner Layer- Highly absorbent and made of cotton
- Middle Layer- Low absorbent, non-woven, and made of polypropylene
- Outer Layer- Non-absorbent, non-woven, and made of polyester or polyester blend.
What Mask Should You Wear?
Health care workers are used to wearing a mask and sanitary habits, its the long hours and continuous work that affects them. So keeping them aside. WHO recommends individuals who are tending to affected family members, old people with respiratory ailments, and workers exposed to heavily sanitized places to wear surgical masks or N95 respirators.
For the general public, who are not in contact with an affected individual and are residing in a locality where the cases are low to none, WHO says that a reusable cotton cloth mask with the above-mentioned Q factor is sufficient they provide enough protection.
How to Reduce Suffocation?
Masks have been part of a doctor’s life for a long time. Before the invention of use and throw surgical masks, cloth masks were the only reliable choice. Even today, many developing countries that have a shortage of surgical masks rely on a cotton cloth mask.
Cotton cloth masks are better than surgical masks and N95 respirators but still cause suffocation.
- Children who are not exposed to COVID-affected individuals should wear a mask only when they are in a crowded place where physical distancing is impossible.
- Individuals above the age of 60 or individuals with medical conditions should wear surgical masks or N95 respirators.
- Young and Middle-aged individuals can wear a cotton cloth mask in public places where the spread of COVID is low and can take occasional mask breaks in confined private spaces.
- Invest in face mask brackets that create a gap between the mask and your nostrils to reduce suffocation.
- Patients with breathing problems and asthma should carry their medicines and inhaler at all times since wearing a mask can cause respiratory attacks.
- Don’t wear a mask while you are exercising or when you go for a swim. It’s advisable to exercise and swim alone in well-sanitized places.
Advantages of Cotton Face Masks
- Cotton masks are skin-friendly and hypoallergenic
- They are durable and breathable.
- More eco-friendly than their counterparts.
- Easy to wash and care for.
- You can match them to your outfits
- Coupled with a silk outer layer, a cloth mask is an ideal choice for humid climates. The cotton inner layer will absorb moisture from the inside and dry them off while the silk outer layer prevents water droplets from outside to enter your respiratory system.
- Twisting your mask elastic before wearing them can create gaps through which viruses can enter your system.
- Sanitize your hands before and after you touch your mask. Touch only the elastics.
- Store your mask properly, don’t hold them in your hands or let them hang on your chin.
- Dispose of use and throw masks appropriately.
- It is important to wash reusable masks after every use. Used cloth masks should be stored in tightly-sealed ziplock bags and should be kept out of the children and pets’ reach between washing sessions.
They should be washed with soap or light detergent in hot water(60 degree Celsius), if that’s not possible they should be soaked in hot water for atleast 1 whole minute. Kindly don’t use any strong detergent as they can be harmful in close proximity to the face and can severe allergies and other problems.
COVID Prevention Myths
- Gloves do not help in preventing the spread of clothing, it’s advisable to sanitize your hands at appropriate intervals.
- Masks with valves are useful only for miners who are constantly exposed to dust and other fine particles. COVID viruses are smaller in size and can pass through these valves easily.
- Face shields should be used in addition to face masks and not instead of. There should be no gap between the shield and your forehead while the shield should extend below your chin.
- T-Shirts, bandanas, and handkerchiefs won’t make do for a cloth mask and can constrict breathing.
- Sanitizers should not be used on items ingested. It is recommended to wash hands and utensils with a mild soap before you eat.
Cloth masks are a better alternative if they are used as prescribed. A recent study by scientist Christopher Zangmeister from the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) shows that cotton cloth masks are more effective in preventing the aerosol spread of water droplets than other fabrics.