Updated: Jun 12, 2020
Face Masks. To wear or not to wear? And for healthcare workers what face mask to wear and when? These are some of the questions that are haunting us at the moment. Some countries like China, Japan and Singapore have encouraged their public to use face mask. In the UK, it is a matter of personal choice. WHO (2020) recommends that masks should be worn by people who are coughing or sneezing and by healthy people taking care of those with suspected infection. This means that healthcare workers must use face mask as part of their PPE. But which ones to wear and for how long?
1. Surgical Mask
Surgical masks come in different thickness meaning they will have different protective abilities. When worn properly they create a barrier for large particle droplets and splashes, some of which may contain pathogens. However, by design, they do not filter or block very tiny particles. Also since they are loose fitting, their protective capabilities are quite limited. This only means that they offer little or no protection against COVID 19 and other pathogens. But because times are hard, when you use this masks, ensure you dispose them after one single use (FDA)
These masks offer protection against aerosols, gases and fumes. There exist two types, filtering and insulating. They can be single use or reusable. The latter have detachable filters that you replace when full. There are different types of mask in this category including N95, FFP1, 2 and 3 depending on the region and the Standards (FDA; Lee et al., 2016). These masks therefore offer the best protection against very tiny droplets and should be used at this time. CDC recommends that the masks be disposed of after each contact with the patient, after a procedure that generates aerosols or if the mask is damaged.
In conclusion, I found very little evidence to support the preventive efficacy of face masks for healthy people. Instead, people who are sneezing or coughing should wear the masks to prevent spreading droplets (Feng et al., 2020). Healthcare workers, on the other hand, need to wear masks as part of their PPE, with N95 and FFP being the masks of choice. A mask should be single use but it is important to review manufacturers guidelines as well. Whether this is feasible in most county is the worrying question. May God protect us all.
1. Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public: when and how to use masks.
2. Feng, S., Shen, C., Xia, N., Song, W., Fan, M., & Cowling, B. J. (2020). Rational use of face masks in the COVID-19 pandemic.The Lancet Respiratory Medicine.
3. Lee, S. A., Hwang, D. C., Li, H. Y., Tsai, C. F., Chen, C. W., & Chen, J. K. (2016). Particle size-selective assessment of protection of European standard FFP respirators and surgical masks against particles-tested with human subjects.Journal of healthcare engineering,2016.
4. N95 Respirators and Surgical Masks (Face Masks)
5. Understanding the Difference