Given the spread of the coronavirus in the world as a pandemic, the question has arisen about the types of masks that we can use to protect ourselves from COVID-19. As there are many erroneous information on the internet, today we tell you what the World Health Organization recommends about its use.
The coronavirus strain COVID-19 continues to spread throughout the world, in what the World Health Organization (WHO) has already classified as a pandemic. This has influenced the types of face masks that are sold and that people have begun to use massively.
The truth is that a lot of erroneous information circulates on the internet about these devices, and the general population, in the face of panic, has exhausted them in stores. Similarly, we see people in the streets wearing masks with inappropriate use.
From the first moment, there were recommendations regarding the types of masks that should be used, and who should use them. However, the urgency overpowered the information and, in several countries, the protocols were applied late.
We will explain in this article what types of masks are available, who should use them and what are the general recommendations for use.
Types of masks against coronavirus
We know that COVID-19 is transmitted by air through droplets expelled through the nose and mouth of those infected. It is an aerosol transmission, as it is known, and it stands to reason that the use of a mask may be helpful.
For both the coronavirus and other pathologies of similar transmission, such as the flu, different types of masks do not have the same effect. The microscopic size of the virus and the particles that carry it play an important role here.
Basically, there are two general types of masks: surgical and filtering. Within the second there is a subdivision with three different models that are distinguished in the size of the filter.
These are the classic face masks. They owe their name to employment in operating rooms. For this reason, they are not to stop viral transmission, but to protect against fluid splashes. Surgeons and medical personnel put them on so that the patient’s blood, for example, does not enter their mucosa.
The barrier they create is physical, but the WHO has always remarked that they are ineffective in preventing infection. Its use on the streets, compared to COVID-19, is more a placebo for those who use it than a preventive measure.
These devices are more complex than the surgical mask. They contain a filter on their forehead that does not allow some microparticles to pass from the outside to the inside. There are three filter levels:
- First level: technically called FFP1 or P1, they are the least efficient of this group to protect from infectious aerosols. In practice they are used for work with inert particles, such as brick dust in construction.
- Second level: FFP2 or P2 masks are a type of device that filters up to 92% of circulating particles, allowing a maximum of 8% to pass into the interior. The WHO recommends, against coronavirus, masks that filter 95% or more, that is, this type is at the limit of the recommendation.
- Third level: finally, the FFP3 filter masks only allow 2% of the circulating particles to enter.
Who should wear face masks in the coronavirus pandemic?
Beyond knowing which masks are efficient and which are not compared to COVID-19, it is important to detect which situations warrant their use and which do not. The departure of all individuals, all the time, with surgical-type masks, is obviously inefficient.
Most countries, through their ministries of health, have concluded that there are two more precise indications for the use of masks in these times:
Those who travel from an area with high transmission of the virus, even more if they have signs compatible with coronavirus – fever, dry cough, decay. They must wear the mask for at least 14 days, which is the calculated incubation time.
In health centers, both professionals who treat suspected cases, as well as patients with symptoms who are hospitalized without isolation, or who are in waiting rooms for consultation.
As previously explained, these people should use a type of mask that is efficient, and not the mere mask. Devices with at least FPP2 filters should be provided.
And the use of the mask must be added the other measures that are still indicative, such as frequent hand washing, isolation and quarantine when appropriate, as well as the general hygiene of the utensils. The masks alone do not constitute the entire approach.
Recommendations for the use of masks in the coronavirus
As we explain well, the type of mask to choose depends on the filter, and the WHO recommends that they be FFP2 or higher. It is not necessary for all of us to wear it either. They should be used by travelers who come from areas with high transmission and suspicious cases, as well as health professionals.
The mask must correctly cover the nose and mouth, and to remove it you must take it from behind. If we remove it by taking it from the front, everything we did to take care of ourselves loses sense. Similarly, it should not be touched while in place.
If the mask gets wet you have to change it for a dry one, because it loses its filtering capacity. Once we discard it, we cannot reuse it; they are disposable.