Should you buy surgical masks or cloth face masks?

As the weather turns into a second wave and cases of COVID-19 continue to pop up worldwide, it is clear that Americans will need to postpone the spread by continuing to wear masks in public for the near future. And while surgical masks and cloth masks have become easier to purchase, many are still opting for handmade or fabric masks rather than medical ones.

Surgical and cloth buyers are attracted to these cloth masks because they are readily available and generally reusable, but what the wearers do not realize is that they make a huge compromise on consistency and put others' health at risk.

The spreading of coronavirus is an unprecedented situation, which means that the efficacy of cloth face masks in slowing the spread of this disease compared to surgical ones has not been adequately researched. However, conclusions on the effectiveness of masks can be drawn from some of the latest literature.

We should buy cloth masks and surgical masks due to their efficiency and other characteristics;

Testing and Approval

Cloth masks are not checked and are not approved by the FDA. These masks actually serve as an alternative to masks such as N95, masks for surgery, etc. As there is a shortage of these masks, masks such as N95 and surgical masks are intended specifically for healthcare workers and first responders.

 At home, anyone can make a cloth mask, or buy ready-made masks online or in stores. Official studies and analyses are not available (conducted by health organizations and approved by the WHO and FDA). Currently, masks can only be checked by independent research. In addition, the FDA has not tested or approved any brand or design of cloth masks since 2006 (apart from the regular mask design).

Surgical masks are FDA checked, controlled, and licensed for medical use, unlike cloth masks. In Europe, by means of the CE marking procedure, surgical masks are accredited to comply with health, safety, and environmental protection measures.

 These masks are designed to protect against toxic body fluids and are intended for use by health care workers and first responders. Because of the lack of such masks, people are advised not to use surgical masks as their primary protection.

Filtration efficacy

The aim of this research was to test the filtration capacity of a double strap tie-on surgical mask. The supplier claims a 95 percent output with a 0.1 um challenge aerosol under FDA testing procedures. There were three sizes of monodispersed aerosols used (polystyrene latex beads: 0.5 um, 1.0 um, 2.0 um).

The basic goals were to measure the selection efficiencies for the various particle sizes of this mask. 2 tests have been completed. In the first one, the masks were fixed to a dummy head and the edges of the mask were not sealed. The edges of the masks were sealed to the ears in the second one using silicone sealant, so all penetration was through the filtration material of the mask.

We conducted a randomized controlled trial to compare the efficacy of cloth masks with that of surgical masks and controls (standard practice) among healthcare workers in Vietnam. Rates of infection were consistently greater among those in the cloth mask group than in the medical mask and control groups. This outcome indicates that there was a greater risk of infection for those wearing cloth masks. The mask was tested with a locally crafted, double-layered cotton mask.

Some comparison-group participants used surgical and cloth masks, but when we compared all participants who used medical masks with all participants who used only cloth masks, the poor performance of cloth masks persisted in the post hoc study. The efficiency of filtration of cloth masks varies widely; some materials philter better than others. The efficiency of cloth mask filtration depends on several variables, such as thread count, number of layers, type of fabric, and resistance to water.

Another study found that handmade cloth masks could also reduce aerosol contamination, but less so than surgical masks and respirators. The protection of cotton and towel masks is better than that of gauze masks.

Purpose and Use

In cases of disease and pandemic situations, the object of a cloth mask is to shield individuals from virus-laden droplets. By coughing and sneezing, the mask can lower the risk of becoming sick or infecting others. It should also protect against airborne particles that can easily penetrate the airway and mouth.

Cloth masks are currently recommended for all; this suggests that cloth masks should be used by any person instead of other masks intended specifically for medical use. The object of a surgical mask, not only in cases of disease and pandemic situations but also during procedures and surgeries, is also to protect people from virus-laden droplets. Surgical masks can minimize the risk of exposure to other people's saliva, toxins, and respiratory secretions. It can also avoid contaminated individuals from spreading to others with pollutants.

Surgical masks are more effective infiltration than cloth masks

The various kinds of fabric masks and surgical masks showed that their filtration performance was much lower than that of surgical masks. The authors noted that the danger is even greater with handmade cloth masks, where individuals don't have the experience or the right fabric to ensure a tight fit. Due to surgical mask production characteristics, surgical masks have 70 percent more filtration ability than fabric masks.

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