With more places mandating facial coverings, it is essential to learn about the different types of masks available to determine which is best for you. In this blog post, we are highlighting the most common types of facial coverings and their level of protection. When choosing a mask, experts say focus on the fabric, fit, and breathability. How well a facial cover will protect you is a result of both what it is made from and how well it seals to your face. However, if you can’t breathe well through it, then you’re less likely to keep it on. (Godoy, 2020)
First and foremost, it is vital to have a facial covering that correctly fits your face. Your mask should cover your face from the bridge of your nose to under your chin. It should be loose-fitting, but still secure enough to stay in place. Make sure you can talk with your mask on and that it doesn’t irritate you, so you are not tempted to touch it or pull it out of place, which could put you at risk from touching your face or limit its effectiveness. (Lockerd Maragakis, M.D., M.P.H., 2020) Masks are also not recommended for babies and children under two years of age. (healthychildren.org, 2020) For children over two years of age, you will want to use a facial covering that is appropriately sized for their age. Some facial covers such as neck gaiters are adjustable so they can be sized to fit children of various ages.
Below are a few of the most common types of facial coverings:
It is important to note that anyone interacting directly with people ill or suspected to be ill with COVID-19 needs professional respirators, such as N95 respirators, which are designed for medical use. N95 respirators fit the face snugly and filter the air to stop respiratory droplets from getting through or around the device. These types of masks are in limited supply and should be reserved only for healthcare professionals. (Lockerd Maragakis, M.D., M.P.H., 2020)
Standard Surgical Masks
Although they are not tight-fitting, blue, disposable masks are fluid resistant and provide some protection against larger respiratory droplets from coughs and sneezes. Primarily, they prevent the wearer from spreading infectious droplets to others. (Lockerd Maragakis, M.D., M.P.H., 2020)
They cannot be washed.
According to the C.D.C., these masks may help slow the spread of COVID-19 and help keep people who may unknowingly have the virus from transmitting it to others. They also often come in a variety of sizes, including children’s sizes.
Cloth masks can and should be washed daily.
Neck-gaiter masks (also known as buffs) are often made of synthetic fabric; they are designed to cover your face, nose, and mouth and wrap around you. “There would theoretically be less chance for the air to escape laterally out of the sides as it would from a mask that’s open on the side,” says Dr. Abraar Karan, a physician at Harvard Medical School who’s working on Massachusetts’ COVID-19 response team.
Most neck gaiters can and should be washed daily.
Scarves & Bandanas
Scarves and bandanas have been said to be less effective than other facial covering options. This could primarily be due to the way they are worn by the person. The key is to ensure that your facial covering is fitted to your face and that air is not openly traveling out the sides of the covering.
Most scarves and bandanas can and should be washed daily.
Many people have turned towards making their own masks from the comfort of their homes. Experts say that when making your own mask, here are a few tips to consider:
- Thicker, more densely woven cotton fabrics are best, such as quilting cotton or cotton sheets.
- Stretchy knits aren’t ideal.
- Hold the fabric up to the light: The fewer tiny holes you can see, the better it will work to filter droplets.
Homemade masks should be created from washable fabric that you can clean daily.
Healthychildren.org. (2020). Cloth Face Coverings for Children During COVID-19. Retrieved July 15, 2020, from https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/COVID-19/Pages/Cloth-Face-Coverings-for-Children-During-COVID-19.aspx
Godoy, M. (2020, July 01). A User’s Guide To Masks: What’s Best At Protecting Others (And Yourself). Retrieved July 15, 2020, from https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2020/07/01/880621610/a-users-guide-to-masks-what-s-best-at-protecting-others-and-yourself
Lockerd Maragakis, M.D., M.P.H., L. (2020). Coronavirus Face Masks & Protection F.A.Q.s. Retrieved July 15, 2020, from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/coronavirus/coronavirus-face-masks-what-you-need-to-know