COVID-19: Which face mask is better? Experts weigh in on how long should you wear N95 masks

WION Web Team
New Delhi, India Published: Jan 14, 2022, 04:42 PM(IST)

Cloth, disposable, N95? Which mask is better? Photograph:( Others )

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The study mentioned that in addition, the use of face coverings was highly effective in reducing the count of expelled aerosols

As per the latest study published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, the face masks help in reducing the distance airborne pathogens could travel when speaking or coughing by more than half compared to not wearing a mask.  

Ever since the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic wreaked havoc across the world, scientists and health experts have been advocating the usage of face masks to curb the spread of the virus.

Now, the new study by researchers at the University of Central Florida offers insight. Meanwhile, the effectiveness of face masks has been a debated topic by some people. 

As Covid cases continue to rise globally due to the Omicron variant, protection against the virus should be the priority. 

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The latest study found that without face coverings, droplets/aerosols were detected up to a maximum of 1.25m during speech and up to 1.37m while coughing.

The study mentioned that in addition, the use of face coverings was highly effective in reducing the count of expelled aerosols also. 

The coverings made up of cloth reduced maximum axial distances to 0.61m for speech and to 0.67m while coughing respectively. 

On the other hand, the safe distance was reduced further to 0.15m measured for both emission scenarios while using the disposable face covering. 

What about N95 masks? How long should you wear your N95 face masks?

As reported by CNN, properly fitted N95 face masks better prevent tiny particles from getting into your nose or mouth as compared to cloth masks.

The material that is used to make N95, such as polypropylene fibres, act as both mechanical and electrostatic barriers to shared air. 

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Are N95 face masks reusable?

This has been one of the most debated topics during the pandemic so far. The comparative higher price has been one of the reasons for such talks as people use their N95s multiple times.  

"I wear mine for a week," Linsey Marr, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech as quoted by CNN.

"An N95 mask's material and filtration ability aren't going to degrade unless you physically rub it or poke holes in it. You'd have to be in really polluted air... for several days before it lost its ability to filter out particles. So, you can really wear them for a long time," Marr said. 

"People have been talking about 40 hours - I think that's fine. Really, it's going to get gross from your face or the straps will get too loose or maybe break before you're going to lose filtration ability," she added. 

On the other hand, Erin Bromage, who is an associate professor of biology at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth weighed in on would the N95s be used more than one time.

As quoted by CNN, Bromage said that the reason why N95 masks are designated as "single-use" is that they're categorised as medical masks. 

But Bromage added that if a person is safely reusing N95 maks, then one mask can be used for at least two or three days. 

Are N95s reusable?

Both the experts, Marr and have said that if the mask becomes damp, dirty, bent, creased, it should be replaced.

"The longer you wear it, the more it's actually trapping material - which means that the breathability, the resistance of the mask, starts to decrease," Bromage said.

How to sanitise N95s?

Marr said that the contamination particles will go away over the course of a few to several hours. It can happen faster if the N95s are put aside in sunlight.  

The CNN report also mentioned that N95 masks have a special static charge that helps filter out viruses and if a person wants to sanitise it, he/she can wash the masks because water will dissipate the charge.

 

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