With the Coronavirus making the news daily a lot of people are starting to think about masks. In face masks are selling out at pharmacies, hardware stores, and online retailers like Amazon. The real question is will a mask protect you from a virus-like the Coronavirus?
Will a face mask protect me from a virus?
The answer is somewhat. Face makes will reduce the number of germs that you breathe in at varying levels depending on the mask you are using. They will also help keep you from touching your mouth and nose before you can wash your hands helping to stop the spread of viruses through the hand to mouth rout. Face masks will not fully eliminate the chances of you getting a virus.
That said they do help somewhat so if you are going to be in a place with a lot of other people at once it can be a good idea to wear a mask to help protect yourself.
When my father was in the hospital the last spring I made the choice to wear a reusable cloth n99 mask when in public areas of the hospital to avoid illness while recovering from a major injury myself. Despite spending all my time in the hospital during the tail end of flu season I managed to keep in good health. This potentially saved my life due to a major chest injury that would have had devastating results had I gotten a respiratory illness. \
What type of make is the most effective?
Randomized studies show that n95 respirators are the most effective masks to protect yourself from a virus. These masks are only good for about 8 hours and can be incredibly difficult to wear for long periods of time if fitted properly. These are the masks are healthcare professionals are using in high-risk situations.
Are cloth or disposable medical masks better?
Randomized studies have shown that disposable medical masks are more effective at removing small particles from the air but not nearly as effective as n95 masks.
Cloth masks are less effective and can lead to more issues if you do not use them properly. Cloth makes should be changed a minimum of every 4 hours to a fresh clean one and washed after every use. This means if you decided to use cloth face makes you should have enough on hand to wash them every use or you will risk a higher rate of infection from germs that are on your mask from the last use.
Where can I find makes to protect me from a virus?
N95 masks can be found in limited quantities online but are the easiest to find at hardware stores because they are used to protect while working and painting.
Surgical masks are becoming harder and harder to find. Many people are having the best luck at out of the way small pharmacies that have not had their shelves cleared yet.
What am I using?
We have a stock of cloth n95 and n99 respirators that we place filters in for the family. This is what I used when my father was in the hospital and what I stocked to help when we were having construction over the summer when I was concerned the dust would be a much bigger issue than it was. I plan to save these for if we need to visit a hospital or other high-risk area.
For regular use, if things get bad we have started sewing a stock of cloth surgical masks to give us a bit of protection so if the virus is a big issue come spring we can have the freedom to go to all of the fun activities we have planned without risking bringing the virus home to my grandmother who would be more susceptible to complications than the rest of the family. Remember masks are just one of the things you can do to protect yourself from a virus.