Medical masks have been in use for decades, but have become extremely common recently as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
The coronavirus is a microscopic particle that can enter through many materials. Regardless, the CDC and other healthcare bodies have recommended that all people wear masks when leaving their homes, since they do slow the spread of the disease when worn correctly. This can range from a simple cloth mask to a specialized N95 respirator.
Why do masks help?
Masks can help in two ways: they can either prevent the virus from entering your respiratory system through the mouth or nose or prevent it from spreading outside an infected person’s body when they’re coughing or sneezing. Viruses exist inside an infected person’s mucous, which is either coughed or sneezed out as tiny droplets. By placing a preventative barrier in front of their mouth and nose, the mucous and, hence, the virus, is kept from transferring.
Masks can help us stay safe if the entire community wears them. This includes the uninfected, infected, and carriers of the virus with no apparent symptoms. If wearing a mask is uncomfortable for you, you may wish to buy face mask adapters that will still allow you the protection of a face-covering without the discomfort.
Which masks are best?
Medical-grade masks are undoubtedly the best at preventing the virus from entering your respiratory system. This includes surgical masks and N95 respirators, which are designed to protect from biohazards and microscopic particles.
However, simple cloth masks, cyclists’ masks, and carbon filter masks prevent the spread of the virus when worn by infected individuals. This is because, while these masks may not always be able to stop an external lone viral particle from entering, it is enough to stop virus particles held within infected mucous from spreading when a sick person coughs or sneezes.
Purchasing face masks
Many people are searching for a mask to buy to keep them and others safe. Here is a list of popular retailers you might consider buying from:
Reformation is a women’s clothing brand based in Los Angeles. You can order soft, cloth face masks from them online for an affordable price. The masks are sold in a pack of five and cost $25 a set. They can be reused after washing. They come in a solid black color that will match most outfits while keeping you safe.
Banana Republic is another popular clothing retailer based in the US. They are currently selling special microfiber face masks to aid in coronavirus protection. These masks cost $20 each, but Banana Republic will automatically donate $10 to Feeding America’s COVID-19 Response Fund when you purchase.
3M is an excellent place to get medical masks. This company is known for its PPE and has distributors around the globe. 3M is also in line with NIOSH standards and makes surgical masks as well as N-range respirators. You can buy them here.
Onzie’s non-medical face masks are stylish and protect from viral droplets. These masks have multiple layers and contain spandex elastic ear bands to allow for a comfortable fit. Onzie’s masks fit perfectly around the face and do not allow for any gaps between the skin and mask, which improves their protection efficiency.
Honeywell Safety is a leading American brand that is listed among the world’s top 10 face mask manufacturers. The company specializes in PPEs and is selling medical-grade masks to help fight the coronavirus. You can buy non-disposable respirators, mask filters, cartridges, and N95 respirators. Their products adhere to American standards and are in line with NIOSH demands.
Sanctuary’s masks are fashionable and provide decent protection from viral threats. They come in a variety of different prints and feature a metal band at the nose bridge which can be molded around the nose to offer a better fit and maximize protection. The face coverings also come with a fabric filter insert.
The NoeCare face mask is also worth checking out when looking at the range of face masks for sale. These face coverings are made from a soft cotton cloth that is both thick and well-stitched. In this product bundle, you get four masks and 10 carbon filter replacements that you can switch out with old ones as required.
Etsy is a massive online marketplace that’s currently stocking thousands of masks. These are excellent for everyday wear and come in a variety of colors, patterns, sizes, and shapes. Most retailers have reliable reviews so consider checking it out, including the following sellers:
Shortage of materials
Currently, there is a severe shortage of masks across the world. This is because suddenly, everyone needs a mask, and many retailers are struggling to keep face masks in stock. While cloth masks can easily be made at home, medical-grade ones, like surgical masks and N95 respirators, need to be bought from trusted retailers, who are now scrambling to keep their shelves stocked and keep up with the demand.
The shortage of medical-grade face masks means that there are fewer masks available for frontline workers. This includes healthcare experts who are in constant contact with infected people. Doctors, nurses, and hospital staff are at high risk of contracting the virus, and they are likely to get infected without the right protection. In fact, many medical professionals have died due to continuous exposure to infected patients.
The shortage is not helped by the fact that many people, especially those who don’t need the mask as much as frontline workers do, have broken into hospitals and storage sites and stolen medical masks. This kind of behavior has landed such people in jail.
In troubling times, we should try and save our medical mask resources for those who need it the most. By being considerate of our medical-grade face mask usage, we are essentially helping to keep those who are at high risk safe. In turn, we are also keeping ourselves safe; essential workers can only help us if we help them stay safe by making sure that there are enough PPEs, including masks, available for them.
One of the most significant drawbacks of medical masks is that they cannot be reused or washed. They are all disposable and need regular replacement every few hours. This means that the demand for medical masks is higher than that of regular cloth masks, which can easily be washed and reused.
Alternatives to medical masks
The CDC recommends using a cloth-based face covering if you cannot wear a medical mask. There are many types of cloth-based coverings available in the market:
Regular cloth masks
These common masks can be sewn at home. There are many face masks in stock at popular retailers if you’d rather have a ready-made one. The majority of these sellers are accepting online orders, as well.
Regular cloth masks may contain a single layer or be multi-layered. This depends on the manufacturer. It is much better to opt for a multi-layered, as it offers more protection. Some also have an opening for a filter for added protection.
Cyclists’ masks can help protect you from the virus. They cover your entire mouth as well as the nose and offer a better fit than most simple cloth masks. Cyclist’s masks can also stop various pollutants from entering the mouth and nose.
Carbon face masks
Carbon face masks are another excellent alternative that can be used as an everyday face covering. These masks cover the mouth and nose to protect from viruses, general pathogens, and air pollution.
Carbon masks contain a special filter made from activated charcoal, which is just carbon that has been ground up into extra-fine particles, maximizing surface area. This boosted surface area allows the carbon particles to trap incoming pathogens and unwanted particles, locking them in place and preventing them from entering the respiratory tract. These masks were originally designed to combat pollution, but can be effective against viruses, too.
The carbon face mask contains a cloth skeleton with space to hold a carbon filter. The cloth base can be rewashed, and the filter can be changed as required.
In a situation where getting hold of a ready-made face mask is not possible, you can turn to bandanas as a temporary alternative. While these may not provide complete protection, they serve as a barrier against mucus emitted from coughs and sneezes.
Bandanas can be made from already cut cloth or can be tailored from old t-shirts. You can tie them around your mouth and nose to reduce your chances of infection. Such coverings have been recommended by the CDC and other healthcare bodies, too.
A final word of caution
As you can see, face masks are extremely popular and can help protect you from the coronavirus. However, it’s important to stay away from inauthentic sellers. Before buying a medical-grade mask, be sure to check its validity. See if it conforms to production standards and is in line with NIOSH demands. If not, you may be doing more harm than good by wearing it.
Non-medical masks, on the other hand, can be made at home or purchased from any reliable retailer. They are a valid alternative to the surgical masks and N95 respirators that we should save for the frontline workers who are putting their lives at risk to serve the community.