Face masks can radically reduce the risk of transmission when it comes to airborne diseases. They provide the first line of defence against viruses, and when worn by large numbers of people they can dramatically reduce the number of cases in circulation. When it comes to public health, particularly during times of increased risk, they are an invaluable tool.
A growing body of research suggests that face masks can reduce the amount of viral load spread by 80 per cent. This means that should someone who was wearing a face mask still contract a virus, it will be much less severe. Face coverings have been used to help combat disease transmission and protect from pollution since the global flu pandemic of 1918-19 including todays unprecedented pandemic.
What should you look for when choosing a face mask?
When it comes to buying a face mask, there are a few things you might like to consider. The mask should be made from a comfortable material and easy to breathe through. It should ideally contain more than one layer of fabric with 3-layer masks offering the most protection. The fabric should be tightly woven to catch even the tiniest particles of virus.
Your mask should consist of enough material to cover your face from the bridge of your nose to the very bottom of your chin. It needs to be comfortable to wear, ideally with adjustable straps to ensure a snug fit. You’re more likely to remove or not wear an uncomfortable mask which immediately removes protection and increases your chance of transmitting a virus. Ideally, you should be able to forget you’re wearing it.
Our top picks for disposable face masks which cover the mouth and nose include surgical, non-medical and 3 ply face masks for suitable both adults and kids.
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What are the different types of face-covering available?
There is a range of options available when it comes to face masks and coverings and different types of face masks offer different types of protection. Surgical N95 respirators offer the highest level of protection and are worn by people in frontline health or other higher-risk positions. Surgical grade masks are more widely worn, particularly by people in older age groups, people with medical conditions and those in public-facing roles such as shop workers.
For most of us, non-medical masks are a perfectly adequate option, offering good levels of protection while being affordable, easy to use and relatively comfortable. They are available in 1, 2 and 3-layer options, with 3 offering the greatest level of protection.
Unsurprisingly, manufacturers, clothes retailers and designers have seized the opportunity to create a wide range of fashion masks. These range from high-fashion label options, including names like Kurt Geiger and Emily Carter, through to fun designs from high-street stores. Colourful, and novelty designs are one way to help children feel comfortable about wearing a face mask. It’s important however to make sure they still offer adequate protection.
How should you wear a face mask?
When wearing a face mask it should completely cover your nose and mouth. Ideally, it should also cover your chin. Use the adjustable straps to ensure that there aren’t large gaps at the side of the mask, as these can be a route for virus transmission. It should be snug, but comfortable. Also remember to wash your hands with a good antibacterial soap or a hand sanitiser if water is not readily available before putting on and removing your face coverings.
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Should I choose a reusable or disposable face mask?
To remain completely safe, reusable face masks need to be washed after every time they’ve been used. This means that you’ll need to buy a number and be rigorous about ensuring they’re washed on an almost daily basis. The best disposable masks tend to be lightweight and make it easy to breathe, but offer high levels of protection. For the price of a single reusable face mask, you can purchase a box of 50 disposable masks. They will usually contain a non-woven layer on the outside, a filter layer in the middle, and a soft fibre layer next to your face.
They offer practicality with protection, and for many people are a sensible choice.