Face masks have become a very essential protective wear in the last few months as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States has stated that with everyone wearing a face mask, the risk of spreading COVID-19 in the community is reduced. The World Health Organization has also indicated that one of the major ways in which the Coronavirus can be transmitted is through respiratory droplets of different sizes. The only way to prevent these droplets from entering one’s nose or mouth is to wear face masks.
Although face masks have been recommended by health agencies such as the World Health Organization (WHO) for protection, they (WHO) and other health experts have recommended the mask to be used with other preventive measures, such as frequent hand-washing and social distancing.
It has been advised by several international health agencies that all people, regardless of whether they have been confirmed positive or not are to use face masks to prevent being infected or infecting other people.
Different Types of Face Masks
There are different types of face masks, according to the CDC. However, there are three basic types that have been approved by food and drugs administration organizations worldwide. They are the N95, surgical and cloth masks. It must be noted that the properties of materials used to make the different types of face masks may also affect how easily you can breathe through them, and how effective they can be.
The Food and Drug Administration in America says it does not recommend N95 masks for general public use. This is because “those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first-aid responders.”
The cloth face mask has been recommended for use by the general public. However, some specific guidelines must be followed when making cloth masks at home. The Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) in Ghana recommends the following guidelines:
- Fabric used for face masks should be free from all chemicals. According to the FDA, in any event that printed fabric is used, the layer of the fabric in direct contact with the face should be plain fabric that is free from chemicals.
- To be effective, face masks generally must be able to filter out particles and still be easy to breathe through. In the absence of propylene, which is the common material used for medical grade face masks, 100% cotton or cotton blends possess good material characteristics for homemade face masks. Recent studies/evaluations undertaken by the FDA on viable materials for the production of effective homemade face masks from local fabrics/materials established the following: 1. Calico-Stiff (Hard/Medium)-Calico (three layers) combination is ideal for reusable homemade COVID-19 face mask. 2. Calico-Calico-Calico (three layers) combination is ideal for reusable homemade COVID-19 face mask.
Safety Tips about using Face Masks
Face masks are supposed to protect one from getting the virus. However, if certain basic tips are not put in place during its use, it can rather make someone get infected or spread the Coronavirus even further. Here are some basic tips that have been recommended by the CDC of the United States, healthline and the FDA in Ghana to pay attention to when wearing and cleaning face masks:
- Before putting on a face mask, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and running water, or rub your hands together thoroughly with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Make sure to check for defects such as tears in the face masks before wearing.
- If the material of the mask has patterns or colours, position the colored or patterned side of the mask outward.
- Ensure your mouth and nose are fully covered.
- Make sure to allow for breathing without any restriction to avoid suffocation.
- Reusable homemade face masks should be properly washed before reuse. Used homemade face masks must first be disinfected; then washed with soap or detergent until clean, rinsed under running water; dried in the open sun, and ironed before reuse.
- Do not touch the outer part of your mask at any point in time and ensure that you are the only one handling your face mask.