Experts agree that face masks slow the spread of COVID-19. When a person with this virus wears a face mask, the chances of them giving it to someone else drops. You also get some protection from wearing a face mask when you’re around someone who has COVID-19.
Bottom line, wearing a face mask is a way you can protect yourself and others from COVID-19. However, not all face masks are alike. It’s important to know which ones provide the most protection.
Your options for face masks
N95 masks are one type of face mask that you’ve probably heard of. They offer the most protection from COVID-19 and other tiny particles in the air. In fact, they filter out 95% of dangerous substances. However, N95 respirators should be reserved for medical professionals. These people are on the front lines caring for COVID-19 patients and need access to as many of these masks as they can get.
Other types of disposable masks are popular choices. However, not all of them offer appropriate protection against COVID-19. Be sure to look for the types described here:
- ASTM surgical masks are the kind that doctors, nurses and surgeons wear. They have ratings of levels one, two or three. The higher the level, the more protection the mask gives against droplets in the air that carry COVID-19. Only buy ASTM masks that are coded as FXX medical devices. This means they’re approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and aren’t knockoffs.
- KN95 and FFP-2 masks offer similar protection as N95 masks. Only buy masks that are on the FDA’s list of approved manufacturers. This helps you make sure you’re getting the protection you need.
Many of us are choosing to wear cloth face masks to help prevent the spread of the virus. You can easily make a few or buy them ready-made.
The best materials for cloth face masks
Cloth face masks are a perfectly good way to protect others from COVID-19. And they also protect you.
Some scientists have conducted studies on how protective cloth face masks are. So far, they’ve found the following are the best materials for cloth face masks:
- Natural silk
Cotton fabrics that have a tighter weave and higher thread count are more protective than those that don’t. Also, masks made of more than one layer of fabric offer more protection, and it’s even better when the layers are made of different types of fabric. Masks that have layers stitched together — or quilted — seem to be the most effective cloth face masks.
Best practices for wearing face masks
Now that you’ve decided which mask and type of material works best for you, it’s time to make sure it fits correctly.
Face masks must fit well to work their best. Masks that have gaps next to your face can be over 60% less protective. That means loosely fitting face coverings like bandanas and handkerchiefs aren’t very helpful.
The best face masks are those that fit right up next to your face. They should cover the area from above your nose to below your chin. The less air escaping or entering while still allowing you to breathe well, the more protection from COVID-19 you’ll get.
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