Why are face masks important during the pandemic?
COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by a new species of coronavirus, which was discovered at the end of last year. The illness mainly affects the respiratory tract, and it has deeply affected most countries around the world, including the United States, with countless problems in many different areas associated with the pandemic.
This disease can be very diverse in its severity. Some people develop very mild symptoms that can be mistaken with the flu or even a common cold, while others can develop very severe and life-threatening forms of the disease. The least affected age group are kids and the most affected ones are the elderly, as well as those with pre-existing conditions like diabetes or cardiovascular disease.
Since this is a respiratory virus, the main form of transmission is through respiratory droplets, which are released when an infected individual coughs, sneezes, talks, or just by breathing. When a healthy person’s mouth and nose are in contact with these viral particles contained in the droplets, the virus starts infecting their respiratory system.
There are many different types of face masks out there, but each one has a role in different situations. Medical-grade disposable face masks should be used in settings where the risk of exposure to the virus is much more constant, like healthcare settings. The best mask for these situations is the N95 mask, also known as N95 respirators.
These have very high antiviral filtering properties, which makes them the preferred choice for virus protection for frontline workers. Besides filtering out viruses, they can also filter out particles like smoke, dust, pollen, and others, which is why they have other uses in other work settings. The 3M N95 masks are the most used ones, with popular models being the 3M 1860, 3M 8511, and 3M 8210.
However, these masks have been scarce for the majority of the year, along with other medical supplies like surgical masks, KN95 masks, and face shields. Cloth masks, on the other hand, are reusable and are effective for situations outside the healthcare field. They are widely available for sale online, and people can buy them in bulk and wholesale easily.
What mask is best for when you’re exercising?
After ten months of living with the pandemic, the main recommendations to stay protected are now part of our daily lives and we do them almost automatically: wear a face mask, stay 6 feet apart from people who don’t live with us, and wash our hands regularly. We’ve incorporated face masks into the majority of our daily activities, but still after so much time has passed, people are still struggling with incorporating face masks into exercise routines.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended since the beginning of the pandemic to wear reusable cloth masks for the general public, as they’re considered enough protection for regular daily activities in which the user can keep a social distance and they’re not in a high-risk situation. As we mentioned, medical-grade masks should be reserved for frontline workers.
However, while these cloth masks are comfortable enough for walks, public transportation, or a quick trip to the grocery store, most regular ones are not particularly designed for physical activity. They can fall off, irritate your skin, and not be very breathable, which makes them uncomfortable and people won’t be motivated to wear one.
Nonetheless, after ten months of dealing with these types of situations, it seems like manufacturers are thinking of a solution to every possible problem to come from this new normality of wearing face masks. Of course, face mask producers found a way to manufacture cloth masks specifically for exercising, which can be used for running, hiking, cycling, or working out.
It’s important to point out that cloth masks are never intended to be used in a healthcare setting or by frontline workers, as these are only effective for low-risk situations, like working out or any form of exercise.
For exercising, the main things a face mask should offer you are protection, comfort, flexibility (to make sure they’ll stay on your face with all the movement), and to stay dry, since face coverings lose effectiveness as they get wet and can become more difficult to breathe in. These are some key features you need to research when choosing your cloth mask for exercising:
- The material they’re made of: the same principle that applies to your workout clothes applies to your face mask. The material should be lightweight and moisture-wicking, to make the mask comfortable and dry at all times. Flexibility in your material is also important for your mask to keep up with all your movement, so materials like elastane or spandex are ideal.
- The breathability of the mask: look for masks with an outer layer of mesh-like fabric, since they ensure more breathability.
- Fit: this is for the same reason that you want a flexible mask. A snug fit around the face will ensure that the mask won’t slide off as you move. Masks with elastic ear loops are great options, but always make sure to adjust the straps to your face.
For more information on how to pick a face mask for exercising, and to see some of the best options for exercise cloth masks on the market, you can read this article by Rolling Stone.
And, for the information the CDC has available on their website regarding how to stay safe playing sports during the pandemic, go to this link.