Different types of face masks: Which ones are best?
When COVID-19 first hit the Tri-State area, face masks were hard to come by and people were making them at home. After a few months passed, stores got on board and started selling them for the general public, but how does the public know what masks are best?
“So those are the typical surgical masks that we typically reserve for healthcare providers,” Dr. Adams responded. “The CDC has actually recommended when we’re out in public that we try to use the cloth-based masks, and that we reserve these for healthcare professionals.”
If cloth masks are the type of face coverings that CDC officials recommend, how do people know what mask is best for keeping them safe? We found a package of two cloth face masks at Target for around $5 in total.
“It says on the inside that it is 100% cotton, and you can see it has two layers here,” Parker explained. “And it appears it has an additional opening here – where I think you can put an additional filter?” Dr. Adams says this typical mask is the one the CDC recommends.
“When we speak, or we sneeze, or we cough, we project little particles of fluid,” Dr. Adams said. “And so the theory behind that is – that cloth mask can help prevent those particles from reaching other people.”
When it comes to plastic face shields being sold in stores, doctors say they are helpful in protecting people against COVID-19, but they should not be used alone. If anyone uses one, wear it along with a face mask for additional coverage.
We consulted medical experts on how to shop for face masks and rounded up those adhering to the CDC’s guidelines. There are numerous companies making and selling face masks online. If you’re shopping for your own face mask, we’ve compiled those face masks whose listed features and materials adhere to the CDC’s criteria on what you should be looking for, as well as to guidances from medical experts we consulted.
As the U.S. continues to experience surges in coronavirus cases, many states are responding by enforcing state-wide mask mandates. More than half the country now requires all residents — including kids — to wear a mask in public spaces where social distancing is not possible, including while exercising outdoors.
Other states, like Florida — which together with Texas and California account for about one-fifth of the world’s new coronavirus cases — require people to wear masks only in specific counties. Since April, the CDC has recommended people wear face coverings in public — including homemade cloth face masks. But some governors resisted issuing statewide mask requirements until now.
Widespread mask requirements come as New York, New Jersey and Connecticut announced they will quarantine visitors from over a dozen states upon arrival. Some cities, like Chicago, have issued travel advisories for people coming from coronavirus hot spots.
And it doesn’t stop with states and cities. Stores like Walmart, Best Buy and the Kroger grocery chain have also recently enforced “no mask, no entry” rules at locations nationwide. Walmart, the nation’s largest retailer, mandated face masks in all its stores beginning on July 20, including Sam’s Club. The retailer will provide complimentary masks for customers who come in without one, or masks can be purchased in the store. Starbucks, CVS and Lowe’s also now require customers to wear masks in stores.
In response to increasing mask mandates, many clothing retailers and brands have turned to creating and selling their take on cloth masks to the public. If you’re looking for places to shop for masks, we consulted experts on how to buy the best face mask for your needs, as well as the features you should be looking for.
Some clothing companies are pursuing an additional element of good with their face mask offering, donating to relief funds or donating personal protective equipment to healthcare workers. We’ve rounded up some of those brands using their resources to give back — on this third update of our original list (which we first published on May 8), we’ve found 50 face masks that meet our criteria. Cloth masks should not give wearers the confidence to ignore social distancing.
John-Martin Lowe, PhD, University of Nebraska Medical Center
The CDC has advised wearing a cloth face covering for those out in public spaces, like grocery stores and pharmacies, where it could be hard to properly socially distance. Stores such as Walmart, CVS and Whole Foods also now require customers to wear masks at locations nationwide, as we mentioned above, and many municipalities and state governments are also mandating the use of face masks.
But legal requirements aren’t the only reason to don a face mask While the CDC recommends wearing a face mask, experts agree that cloth face masks do not replace the need for washing hands or social distancing, and they absolutely do not alone prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Most cloth masks will work to help prevent the spread of droplets that the wearer is emitting, explains John-Martin Lowe, PhD, the assistant vice chancellor for interprofessional health security training and education at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. It can help reduce the chance of infecting others if you’re sick, and will not fully protect you from contracting the virus from someone else.
“Cloth masks should not give wearers the confidence to ignore social distancing,” said Lowe, adding, “If you’re sick or have an infection and don’t know it, the virus will hopefully be reduced by you wearing a mask.”
Some types of masks, specifically N95 or surgical masks, which offer the most protection and are highly in demand, should be reserved for health care workers who are most exposed to infected patients, according to the CDC.
- They must fit snugly (but comfortably) against your face
- They must be secured with ties or ear loops
- They must include multiple layers of fabric
- They must allow for breathing without restriction
- They must be washable without damage or shape change
The cloth does matter, and different types of cloth definitely make a difference.
John-Martin Lowe, PhD, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Interprofessional Health Security Training and Education at the University of Nebraska Medical Center If you’re shopping for a cloth mask, pay attention to its fabric, advises Scott Segal, MD, MHCM, chair of anesthesiology at Wake Forest School of Medicine. Segal led a recent, peer-reviewed study which tested the effectiveness of different fabrics in filtering out particles. The study found that filtration effectiveness ranged widely — from five to 80 percent — depending on the type of fabric used. “The cloth does matter, and different types of cloth definitely make a difference,” Segal said.
- The most effective design, according to the study, was a dual-layer mask, which included both a heavyweight cotton layer and a lighter cotton or silk layer.
- Tightly-bound fabric, including 600-thread count cotton, also performed well, said Segal.
- Poor performers in the study: single-layer masks and double-layer masks of lightweight, low-thread count cotton.
- The study also found that gaps around the edges of a mask — which could be the result of a mask not fitting right — can account for a 60-percent decrease in filtration efficiency.
“Some of these cloth items being sold are focused only on the decorative or artistic aspect,” Segal said. “You need to think about the effectiveness and the public health aspect of it. We don’t want people to think just any material is enough and give them a false sense of security.”
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Some masks also allow for the ability to insert an additional filter, like a high efficiency particulate air, or HEPA, filter. HEPA filters are designed to clear out at least 99.7 percent of particulates that are 0.3 microns or larger in size. For reference, a micron, or micrometer, is about one twenty-five thousandth of an inch and designated with an μm. That can add an additional layer of filtration, said Segal.
Additionally, shoppers should look for masks that can be easily washed and are comfortable, said Anna Davies, a research facilitator who previously worked in the Infectious Diseases department at the University of Cambridge. “If you can’t breathe through it very well, you’re not going to want to wear it very long. And air takes the path of least resistance so it’ll just bypass the material and go out the sides,” she said. “The wearer shouldn’t be touching their mask once on, so ideally a soft fabric is good.”
While shopping for a face mask, here’s the bottom line: Comfort, washability and dual-filtration is key. But above all else, keep practicing social distancing, washing your hands and other precautions, no matter what type of mask you have on.
There are numerous companies making and selling face masks online. If you’re shopping for your own face mask, we’ve compiled those face masks whose listed features and materials adhere to the CDC’s criteria on what you should be looking for, as well as to the expert guidance we share above. On top of that, we narrowed the options down to only those brands who say they plan to give back a portion of their supply or proceeds to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic — our list is up to 50 face masks now, listed in alphabetical order below.
Content retrieved from: https://www.nbcnews.com/shopping/wellness/how-buy-face-masks-n1199661.