Coronavirus FAQ: What Do Face Masks Do?

We see everyone wearing face masks these days, since the rise of the pandemic. It’s even becoming a trend, with people posing on Instagram with different kinds of face masks. So is it just what everyone has started doing at a whim or do they really work against the Coronavirus? How effective are they and what do face masks do to prevent the spread of the disease? These are just some of the questions that frequently cross our mind, while we don’t have much else to do in the lockdown.

Keep reading and you’ll find out more about these face masks, why they are so popular these days, and also how they protect you against the virus.

Use of surgical masks in the past

The use of face masks for protection against epidemics and pandemics isn’t new. Countries have experienced such stages in the past where an epidemic hit and the vaccine came out a lot later. Between this time, such as during the outbreak of the swine flu in 2009, when there wasn’t a vaccine to protect against the virus, surgical masks were to be used to keep the people protected, as advised by authorities.

The world is facing quite a similar situation today. Scientists and doctors are still working on the vaccine while the rest of us are looking for alternative measures to keep ourselves protected in the meantime. Face masks, frequent hand-washing, assuming social distancing, disinfecting surfaces are what everyone is practicing in the current times.

So what do face masks do? Do they actually protect the wearer from catching the virus? Or is it just an illusion that tricks us into believing that we are well-armed against COVID-19, but it will still get the best of us? Let’s find out.

According to experts

Our best bet to answer the dilemma is to turn to the experts, since they would definitely know more than us. The two authentic resources for all our COVID-related questions are WHO and CDC and they have added plenty of information on face masks in regard to the current Coronavirus outbreak.

Both websites acknowledge the effectiveness of face masks in prevention against the spread of the disease. This is exactly why the WHO recommends the use of medical face masks only for patients and health care workers.

CDC goes a step further into enforcing the use of face masks. They advise everyone to use face masks but recommend the medical face masks only for health care workers, patients, and those close to them. They also recommend using face masks for all those who are showing any signs of respiratory problems since it could be linked to the virus. For the rest of the population, CDC advises the use of homemade face masks. 

How do face masks work?

So you’ve seen what the experts are saying regarding these face masks. Now let’s find out as to what do face masks do to prevent the spread of the virus? Only then can we be sure if they’re really effective in the situation that we are in.

Different face masks are designed differently, so it’s natural that they’ll work in different ways. Let’s cater to each one separately to know for sure how each one functions.

1.     How does N95 face masks work?

The most effective face mask against the Coronavirus is the N95. However, these varieties are recommended only for health workers and patients. The rest of us aren’t advised for using these so that there isn’t a shortage for the hospitals.

N95 respirators are designed to give a tight fit on the wearer’s face, completely covering the openings of their mouth and nose. They filter out airborne particles and are almost 95% effective in blocking the microscopic particles. 

Since they offer the best protection against the virus, they are to be used by the ones who are at maximum exposure to COVID-19.

2.     How do surgical masks work?

Surgical masks are loosely fitted masks, in contrast to N95s, and will as a result not offer the same level of protection against airborne particles. The polypropylene layers of a surgical mask resist moisture so it is not uncomfortable to wear, even for long hours.

So what do face masks do in this case? As far as their effectiveness is concerned, they offer less protection against the virus as compared to the N95s. Nonetheless, they are a barrier against the wearer and the contaminated air beyond.

Surgical masks are also short in the market, and for this reason, CDC and WHO only advises them for those who are in close contact with the patient or are a patient themselves.

3.     How do homemade face masks work?

What do face masks do if you make one at home? Are homemade face masks effective too, since we aren’t expected to use the medical face masks for our protection.

Although fabric face masks made at home do little at filtering out the particles, they are effective in other ways. Researches say that air particles are more likely to take the path that offers the least resistance. The barrier in the form of fabric that you have placed between your face and the particles will offer resistance, and the particles are more likely to go around it than to go through it.

Also if you sneeze or cough, the jet that’s released from your mouth or nose will be blocked, to some extent, by the same barrier. This will prevent you from infecting the air around you and help in containing the spread of the virus.

Conclusion

Hopefully, this article will have answered your question as to what do face masks do in preventing the spread of Coronavirus. In short, they are effective and should be worn, especially when you are in public. Other preventive measures should also be followed to cope with the situation.

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