CAN SURGICAL MASKS OR RESPIRATORS PREVENT CORONA VIRUS?
Monday, June 1, 2020
The world is suffering from the deadly infection of Coronavirus. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the infection as ‘pandemic’. The early symptoms of this deadly infection are high fever, shortness of breath, tiredness and dry cough. So, the entire world is under lockdown to break the chain of COVID-19 with certain precautionary steps required to be ensured. The contemporary ways to sanitize oneself is the 20 seconds formulae of hand wash or using disinfectant containing at least 60% alcohol, avoid touching surfaces and handshakes and no unnecessary contacts. The use of mask and covering face using napkin or elbow while coughing and disposing the napkin would give an added advantage.
We all know that sanitizer containing good quality alcohol can kill most of the germs, bacteria and viruses including fatal Coronavirus . In a research, it was found that the Coronavirus can survive for 3 days (72 hours approx.) on surfaces like steel or plastic.
Now , the question arises whether any face masks or covering mouth with any cloth helps to prevent Coronavirus from invading our body ?
Firstly, let us understand that no mask can provide 100% safety from Corona Virus. There are different types of masks available in market and most common of them are Surgical masks and Respirators.
They act as a barrier to prevent the foreign body from entering our body, but the main difference between them is that Surgical masks are used only to prevent dust particles or large particle droplets that enter through our nose or mouth while Respirators can prevent vapours, airborne microorganisms, fumes or particulate matter that enter through nose or mouth . But as per the latest study, the virus can enter our body through eyes also,so the person wearing spectacles or goggles can help prevent Covid19 from entering the body to some extent . But as spectacles or goggles are left open from the sides so virus can reach our eyes easily. Hence, it is advised to stay at home and take precautionary steps while stepping out of home. The frontline workers including police, media persons, essential service providers, sweepers,etc are required to wear face shield along with N95 masks to safeguard themselves.
Surgical masks are mostly used by people who are not into any essential services as these are not designed to protect the wearer from breathing in airborne bacteria or viruses. Coronavirus is smaller than the PM 2.5 cutoff but bigger than some regular dust particles and gases. These masks can be used by a person with weak immune system or suffering from chronic health diseases. Persons dealing with severe respiratory or breathing issues are more prone to get infected from coronavirus, hence it is advisable for the infected person to use face mask as well in order to protect others from getting infected. The use of masks is also recommended to healthy person from getting infected. Surgical masks are of three types-: 2-layered surgical mask , 3-layered surgical mask and 6-layered surgical mask.
The protection also depends on the number of layers. More the number of layers, more the protection. A 3-layered mask is better than a 2-layered mask, the cost of 3-layered mask is also higher than the 2-layered mask. While the 6-layered masks are best till now as they can protect us from most of the viruses except SARS CoV-2. This type of mask has its own drawbacks too,like it is loose-fitting and virus can easily enter through the open sides, it does demarcate the correct side from which a person can wear it. So as a human it's common to make mistake and use it from different side, and also make mistakes while reusing. Keeping it anywhere after using can spread risk of virus at that particular place and without knowledge of its proper way of wearing helps the virus to enter the body. Also, the outer layer of the mask consists of virus and accidental touching can lead to the spread of deadly infection.
As mostly surgical masks tend to be disposable, they get wet due to water vapours generated during respiration, that means they need to be replaced with new mask or washable 6-layered mask. Washing them with 60°C hot water with a disinfectant to kill the germs can help in reusing them.
Respirators are used by health professionals as they are having contact with infected person quite often. These are at a risk of getting contaminated by infected person, that's why they use it along with face shield to be more secure from the Coronavirus. N95 mask is most common respirator consisting of filters that can prevent 95% i.e 0.3 micron airborne particles. It is a type of mechanical filter respirator and is better than any type of surgical mask. Respirator is tight fitting and has no opening , therefore it protects in a better way, although a little discomforting. It protects us from most of the viruses which enter from mouth or nose openings but still protects against SARS CoV-2 to some extent. When someone around us coughs or sneezes then the germs or droplets exhaled can stick on a person's clothes or long hair especially in women, so the hair must be covered with a cloth while going out and also changing of clothes after coming back to home is highly recommended. For men too, keeping a long bushy beard or facial hair can be risky as the hair strands are prone to catch Corona virus on them.So the best way is to cover hair or avoid going out or to keep short or no beard on face or clean it after every outside tour.
Respirators contain valve which releases unfiltered air when the wearer breathes out, hence the spread cannot be stopped just by using respirator.
So along with respirator, using a sanitizer is a must and to sanitize our hands from time to time. A respirator cannot be reused and after a particular time period of usage, it becomes difficult for us to breath through it and it indicates the time to replace or dispose it after the use. Most of the doctors and nurses who are curing the Corona patients use surgical masks, face shield, Personal Protective Equipments (PPE) kits and respirator to get best protection. No doubt, full day of wearing tight protection may cause skin irritation and problems especially during the summer season, discomfort due to sweat on the human body, but still life saviours have the noble job of saving lives and to contribute to the nation. In fact, all Corona Warriors are doing their best work to keep us safe during this crucial period.
Therefore, for the common people, the best way is isolation and social distancing. Mask is better than no mask. A common man must keep physical distance from everyone and use sanitizers to kill the microorganisms on hands, wrists, hair and clothes. It will also be better to apply some sanitizer over the mask before using to make it more risk free.
If a person is having any symptoms of COVID-19, then he must contact the health care team or contact the nearest hospital for checkup.
As prevention is better than cure, all points mentioned above must be kept in mind to fight this virus. If tested positive, one should not panic, for there are chances for cure. It is important for people to build good immunity by taking healthy, immune boosting food, for example, Citrus fruits, broccoli, garlic, ginger, spinach, curd and almonds are best immunity boosters. Drinking plenty of normal water everyday also helps in keeping our body fit. Immunity system definitely helps in fast recovery.
Simple precautions taken today can save many lives tomorrow.
That's why, Stay Home, Stay Safe, Stay Healthy & Stay Fit and the world will soon defeat this Coronavirus.
- Sahaj Sabharwal
Student, Delhi Public School Jammu