The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all children over the age of two wear a mask covering in public places. With so many masks to choose from, how do you go about choosing the best mask for you?
According to The Government of Canada, COVID-19 can be spread through the droplets released when an infected person coughs, sneezes, shouts, sings or even talks. Research has shown that the use of masks protects, not only the person wearing the mask, but others around them. Face coverings are now mandatory in all indoor public places in British Columbia, and now more than ever, it is important to know if you are keeping yourself and others safe.
Masks work best when they are well designed and fitted. This means that the fabrics are tightly woven and fit tightly around the face. If your mask has openings at the nose or side, it will be letting in and out air, not doing its primary job.
The Mayo Clinic states that the N95 respirator is the most effective mask to work against COVID-19. Others say disposable surgical masks, cloth masks, and gaiters follow behind.
In an article from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, materials used in masks play a part in their effectiveness. Masks that have vents or exhalation valves actually let out particles through these openings. The most effective masks are tightly woven, have multiples layers and openings to allow a filter to be inserted, adjustable ear loops to ensure a proper fit, and a wire to mold the mask tightly against your nose.
In addition, the amount of time that you are exposed to possible COVID-19 particles plays a role in how your mask can withstand keeping you safe. To ensure that your mask is not infecting you, wash reusable masks after every use. Medical masks, on the other hand, are not washable. According to the World Health Organization, they should only be worn once before they are discarded.
Design and Comfort
Design and comfort can play an important role in choosing the mask that is the best for you. One B.C. teacher I spoke to says, “The best mask for anyone is the one they actually wear, consistently.” A mask that has your favourite character or animal may be chosen to wear over another one, or a mask that is itchy may be chosen less because its uncomfortable.
Masks are used to protect us, although we are not protecting our wildlife and marine habitats from them. According to WasteFreeOceans, disposable masks take 450 years to naturally dispose, meaning if not disposed of properly these masks can cause great danger to our ecosystem. Disposable masks have been found consumed and wrapped around wide life throughout marine habitats. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, have urged disposable mask users to “snip the straps” after use, to put a stop to animals getting tangled and injured by masks.
According to an estimate from OceansAsia, 1.56 billion face masks are thought to make their way into our earth’s oceans. If not changed soon what is meant to save us may end up harming us more.
With all factors into place, a mask that supplies safety, comfort, design, and are not harmful to the environment is the way to go.
Personally, the best mask for me is a black cloth mask. It is comfortable, it can be adjusted to fit my face, it is protective, and can be reused and washed. But frankly, a lot of comes down to what I want to wear: it is my favourite because the colour black goes well with almost every outfit.
Because in the end, wearing the mask in the first place is the most important thing.
Image Credit: Aleah Greene