Is Your Face Mask Really Protecting You?

Here at Haven Elite Urgent Care, your Health and Safety is our top priority, so when we aren’t helping you in the clinic, we want to help you at home by keeping you well-informed. One of the best ways to stay healthy, protect yourself and others during this pandemic is by wearing a face mask. This article, Is Your Face Mask Really Protecting You, will guide you through three important steps.   

  1. The importance of wearing face masks.
  2. The effectiveness of different types of masks against COVID-19.
  3. How to wear a face mask properly.  

How the Coronavirus Spreads
(The Importance of Wearing Face Masks)!

In order to contract the Coronavirus, you have to be exposed to a certain amount of viral particles. Exposure can occur in several ways:

  • Inhaling particles from someone’s cough or sneeze,
  • Gradually breathing in viral particles circulating in the air,
  • Or touching a surface containing the virus and then touching your face

This is the main reason why the Haven Elite Urgent Care staff routinely disinfects our waiting room chairs, door handles, bathrooms, and exam rooms! 

Basically, 

Infection  =  Exposure to the Virus  ✕  Time

Coughing, sneezing, speaking, and breathing can lead to the spread of viral particles.

Particles can linger in the air for several minutes, so even if you are not face-to-face with an infected person, inhaling particles that have spread throughout the room can lead to infection over time. If you want to learn more about this subject, Erin Bromage has an excellent article as well and digs a little deeper within this matter.  

Further, it is important to note that around 18% of people with coronavirus can carry the virus without developing symptoms. It is also important to note that even when people do develop symptoms, it may take up to five (5) days for those symptoms to appear. During this time, people can still spread the virus without even knowing they have it. The BBC has an excellent resource you should view as well. 

Within the video below, scientists used lasers to show the droplets we generate while speaking. Look at the difference wearing a mask makes! You can read the article on the subject as well here: Laser Light-Scattering Experiment with Speech Droplets. 

These factors answer our main question Is Your Face Mask Really Protecting You,” and demonstrate why face masks are so important to wear. Face masks can limit your exposure to COVID-19 particles and can prevent you from spreading particles if you are infected.

How Effective is your Face Mask?

Different materials are better than others when it comes to blocking viral particles from entering a person’s face mask and in preventing viral particles from escaping one’s face mask. 

A professor at Missouri University of Science and Technology tested how effective different household materials were at filtering particles suspended in the air. He found that a Cotton Bandanna was the least effective, followed by a woolen scarf. Look at it this way! A 600-thread-count pillowcase folded four times filtered out 60% of the particles. While two layers of furnace filter captured 75%. Essentially, the denser the fabric is and the more layers you use, the more effective your face mask will be. For your further knowledge, here is an excellent article by the New York Times covering this issue in-depth. 

Another tip to boost the effectiveness of your mask is to add a nylon stocking as an outer layer (see the picture below). This creates a tighter seal between your mask and your face and can increase the filtration ability of most cloth masks up to 80%. If you are more scientific and analytical minded, you can read up on it here. 

picture of a woman wearing a face mask with nylon stocking
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Face masks are even more effective at capturing viral particles, which is important in preventing the spread of COVID-19. The graph below shows how effective different materials are at trapping emitted particles. Click here for an more in-depth look. 

picture of the effectiveness of mask materials
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Reviewing the above graph, while the vacuum bag and the dish towel were the most effective. They are also usually more difficult to breathe through. The cotton T-shirt and pillowcase are still very effective and breathable. So, if you’re going to make your own face mask at home, I’d recommend using one of those fabrics and layering them with other materials. Here’s a step-by-step guide and template to do it yourself! 

How to Properly Wear a Face Mask

Now, once you have your face mask, it’s important to know how to wear it in the way that best protects you and others. Follow these instructions depending on the type of mask you have.

HOW TO PUT ON A FACE MASK

Surgical Mask:
  1. Make sure you have clean hands.
  2. Position the mask. Make sure the stiff, bendable edge is on top and the pleated side is front.
  3. Hold the mask by the ear loops and place a loop around each ear.
  4. Make sure the mask covers your nose and pinch the stiff edge to mold it. 
  5. Pull the bottom of the mask over your mouth and chin.
Cloth Mask:
  1. A cloth face covering is most effective when it has multiple layers, but ensure that your mask allows for breathing without restriction.
  2. Make sure the mouth and nose are fully covered, and that it fits snugly against the sides of the face so there are no gaps
  3. The cloth face covering should be tied or otherwise secured to prevent slipping
HOW TO REMOVE A FACE MASK:
  1. Clean your hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer before touching the mask.
  2. Avoid touching the front of the mask. Only touch the ties/ear loops.
  3. Throw the mask in the trash.  Or, if it’s reusable, disinfect it. 
  4. Clean your hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer.

Another Pro tip I would love to share. Your face mask won’t work as well if you have hair breaking its seal! This graphic from the CDC below, shows which facial hairstyles are still safe to sport.

graph picture of different hairstyles while wearing a facemask
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Let’s review: Is Your Face Mask Really Protecting You?

The coronavirus is largely spread through respiratory exposure, and one major way to prevent yourself from catching and/or spreading COVID-19 is by wearing a face mask. With the information from this article:

  1. You can make your own effective face mask.
  2. Know how to wear it properly. 

Remember, if you do not have a face mask or the materials to make one, Haven Elite Urgent Care is here for you. Your health is our top priority!

The first 100 people to call or come by our clinic can get a surgical face mask for free. 

Of course, it’s still important to take all other precautions, such as washing your hands, disinfecting surfaces, and practicing social distancing – things we are all practicing at Haven Elite Urgent Care, which you can read about Disinfecting Our Clinic and Urgent Care Services during Covid-19

Stay safe!

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