Face masks are considered a controversial topic, with ongoing debates about their usefulness vs. how uncomfortable they are. Here at Soapy, we’d like to make our opinion on the matter of face masks known: we’re on the side of science, and always will be.
The world cannot afford to disregard any guidelines concerning COVID-19.
Although at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic the World Health Organization did not endorse the routine use of face masks to prevent transmission of SARS-COV2 (The virus causing the COVID-19 pandemic), later studies showed that face masks help contain the virus in infected people within the volume between their nose and throat and the inner part of the face mask, hence lowering the chances of transmission of this disease from person to person.
Asthma and face masks
Feeling suffocated while wearing a mask is really a subjective matter and not an empirical one. Facemasks don’t stop your airflow. Usually, people who complain about facemasks report having a hard time breathing in – not out. People with asthma have a hard time exhaling, and so facemasks usually shouldn’t affect their breathing in a significant matter. Therefore, most patients with asthma should be able to wear face masks. If someone has severe asthma, it could be a problem, but that’s relatively rare.
You can get used to wearing facemasks over time. Even if you struggle at first, it’s important to stick with it – for all of our sakes.
Allergies and face masks
Allergies can cause a stuffy nose, snot, and even asthma. Some of its symptoms could be confused with the COVID-19 symptoms, and we wrote a different article exactly about this subject. However, having allergies shouldn’t affect whether you can wear a mask or not. Allergies can cause a stuffy nose and increase the subjective feeling of “difficulty in breathing”, yet, the mask itself is not the cause of this.
Some people have an allergy to certain synthetic fabrics – contact dermatitis. Although contact dermatitis is quite common, contact dermatitis to fabrics is rare. In these cases, a rash at the point of contact between the fabric and the skin can occur and people with this condition should find a fabric that works for them and make a mask out of it so that it will be as comfortable as possible.
Types of masks
There’s a sort of hierarchy when it comes to facemasks. Masks are judged by how much of the virus will stay inside the face mask and also prevent entering the space behind the mask, essentially lowering the chances of infecting others and getting infected yourself.
N95 are considered the best – they can stop particles as small as to 0.3 micron. Micron is a measuring unit, it’s one-millionth of a meter. Because they can stop the spread of such small particles, the N95 masks are considered the best and are recommended to use when you’re next to a diagnosed patient.
Surgical masks are the next runner up. They do filter particles, but not as much as N95. The chance that you will infect others while wearing a face mask is much lower and the chances that you will be infected are also lower. In a documented case where medical personnel treated a patient who later was found to be a COVID-19 patient, none of the staff were infected even though they used surgical masks and not N95 masks. The estimation is that 90% of the virus filled splatters will stay inside the mask when using surgical masks – that makes everyone around you 90% safer.
Fabric masks will be considered more effective the denser the fabric is. It is estimated that fabric masks can keep up to 60% of splatters behind the mask, depending on which fabric is used. They have a clear advantage over the N95 and the surgical masks – face masks are cheaper, reusable, and more accessible to the public. Any mask is better than no mask.
Masks with a filter
Masks with a filter in which exhalations occurs through the filter should not be used routinely during COVID-19 because they only protect the wearer. The filter causes the air to be exhaled out to the room to a relatively large distance, so it doesn’t help to stop the spread to others as much as non-filtered masks. Some countries have even outlawed them!
Tips and tricks to help make it easier
It’s a matter of time
The COVID-19 pandemic is here to stay for at least the next few months and possibly longer. The first tip is obvious: the longer you wear the masks, the quicker you get used to it. Think of a constant humming noise playing in the background – you may hate it at first but after a while, your brain drowns it out. You don’t even notice it anymore. The same happens when you cram yourself in the back of a cramped car compartment – at first, the pose feels unnatural and uncomfortable, but after a while, you don’t even notice it. The same effect will take place once you wear your mask for long enough. So you need to persevere and wear your mask diligently, even if it is uncomfortable at first. It will get easier with time.
Wearing face masks for a long period of time can hurt your ears due to the strings’ tension. These connectors are easily knit and help reduce the pressure on your ears. Here are some instructions on how to knit them for yourself or your loved ones.
Have a teachable activity with your kids
Simple exercises can help your kids understand what “viral” really means, aside from internet fame. You can start by wearing plastic gloves and having everyone stand in a circle. Begin by spreading chocolate on your hand and high-fiving the kids, all around the circle. This shows the kids how contamination works. If chocolate smears so easily from one person to another – so does coronavirus. Another fun yet educating activity is trying blowing out a candle while wearing the mask: you’ll have to try for a long time if you’re wearing a good one.
Laugh about it
The internet knows how to make fun of changing times. While we struggle to implement wearing masks in our daily lives, someone out there decided to translate these feelings into meme culture. And have no doubt, we’re here for it.