The pandemic has been testing the healthcare systems worldwide. With the absence of a vaccine or the exact treatment against the coronavirus, medical experts have been doing their maximum effort in protecting the people that have contacted the virus. Along with their maximum effort is the constant reminder of wearing masks in public. In fact, countries have issued masks mandates that force their people to wear masks anywhere. This is in line with their covid-19 response and with the guidance of the medical experts.
Medical experts have suggested people wear masks that will provide them protection against the virus. The most recommended mask is the N95 mask. With the recommendation of the medical experts, people have been buying the N95 mask to the point of scarcity.
What makes the N95 mask in demand?
The N95 mask is in demand because of the protection it offers. The N95 mask is commonly white in color. The blue-colored N95 mask is a surgical type of N95 mask. The term N95 is coined by the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) which is a category. The N in the N95 mask stands for being not oil resistant. The 95 in the N95 mask is the filtration ability of the mask. The N95 mask is capable of filtering particles of 0.1 microns in size and bacteria of 3.0 microns in size up to 95%.
Compared to a surgical mask, the N95 mask is a tight-fitting mask. It is capable of creating a tight seal on the area of the nose and the mouth. Straps on both ends of the N95 mask are wrapped around the area of the head to secure the right fit. An N95 mask is water-proof too.
The N95 mask is regulated by NIOSH and approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). With these two accrediting bodies, the N95 mask is proven to be effective and safe. The fields of construction and engineering acknowledge the effectiveness of the N95 mask. Particles like dust, fine sand and cement, mists, and volatile gases are filtered by the N95 mask.
However, with the given issue of scarcity of the N95 mask, people resort to choosing other options. Surgical masks also experience scarcity. People are now resorting to wearing a cloth mask. A cloth mask is made of cotton cloth tailored to look like a face mask. In fact, the cotton-based cloth mask is viable protection. In a study, it came third on the most effective mask to be worn in the pandemic; next to a surgical mask and an N95 mask.
How does a cloth mask work?
A cloth mask works exactly like the N95 mask as far as basic protection is concerned. Once worn and used, both the cloth mask and the N95 mask are considered to be contaminated. But compared to an N95 mask, the cloth mask is washable and can be used again. The N95 mask is already disposed of properly.
A cloth mask is made as an alternative for the N95 mask. This will help people in getting protected once they are outside. Since the N95 mask is experiencing a scarcity, a cloth mask is an option.
Can the cloth mask be as effective as the N95 mask?
As far as basic protection is concerned, both the N95 mask and the cloth mask work the same. But the N95 mask goes the extra mile. The N95 mask is created for a specific purpose; that is to provide superior protection. But this does not mean that the protection that a cloth mask can offer is invalidated. It still can be used but it is not as effective as the N95 mask.
It is true that the cloth mask can trap and filter bacteria and particles. But it's filtration ability is lower than the N95 mask. The cloth mask is only capable of filtering up to 60% compared to an N95 mask that reaches up to 95%.
Also, the N95 mask is not water absorbent. Meaning, water is not easily absorbed by the N95 mask. A cloth mask is water absorbent especially if it is made from cotton.
Are there any cloth masks that offer higher protection?
There are cloth masks that offer high protection. In a study published in October, a multilayered cloth mask offers higher protection but not as high and at par with the N95 mask. A multilayered cloth mask is crafted from a fabric that is capable of resisting water; coupled with other fabric with fine weaving details. However, the protection that this offers is still up for queries. A cloth mask that is at par with the ability of the N95 mask is not yet created.
Should a cloth mask be an alternative for health workers?
Outside the hospital, yes, But most healthcare workers would prefer the medical-grade ones. But the cloth can be alternative protection when healthcare workers are outside hospitals or clinics.
However, using cloth masks as an alternative for healthcare workers should not be done inside the hospital. Only medical-grade masks like the N95 mask is the best form of protection. Only the N95 mask is capable of protecting healthcare workers from the threat of the coronavirus. The N95 mask has been establishing its reputation, being the most effective mask.
Until the N95 mask is experiencing scarcity, the cloth mask will always be a reasonable option. However, people should wear a face shield on top of the worn cloth mask underneath. A face shield is proven to provide additional protection to further strengthen your defense. A mask is always better than no mask at all.