What are the best masks for Omicron? Know from experts
It is imperative to choose the right mask and also to wear it correctly in order to protect against the highly-contagious Omicron infection.
With highly infections newer variants of Covid-19 making our chances of contracting the virus higher, masks can be the potent weapons to protect against Coronavirus spread. It is imperative to choose the right one and also to wear it correctly to contain the infection.
Omicron variant is said to be highly contagious, much more than the Delta variant dominant during second wave. We all release tiny particles while talking to each other, breathing, coughing, sneezing, etc.; and that is how the virus can get transmitted from one person to another easily if a protective well-fitting mask is not worn.
So what is the best mask for Omicron?
"The best mask for Omicron infection is N-99. However, the N-99 masks are thicker than usual and it is difficult to wear them for prolonged period, therefore N-95 masks are commonly used and provide good protection," says Dr Ravi Shekhar Jha Additional Director & HOD - Pulmonology, Fortis Escorts Hospital Faridabad.
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"N95, KN95, and KF94 are made using global standard material; used accurately ensuring proper fit, these high-quality and high filtration rate masks filter out tiny particles and offer 95% protection," say Dr Sanjith Saseedharan, Consultant & Head Critical Care, SL Raheja Hospital, Mahim-A Fortis Associate and Dr Sandeep Patil, Chief Intensivist, Fortis Hospital, Kalyan.
Double mask while using surgical masks
"If made using good three-ply filtering materials, surgical masks can give protection against large particles and some tiny particles. But these masks do not seal the face properly and leave gaps between the edges. The only way to improve the fit of a surgical mask is ‘double-masking’. This mask, when worn in pairs, is ideal for everyone, especially those with COPD, Asthma, or any other breathing issues who can't wear an N95 mask," say Dr Saseedharan and Dr Patil.
Cloth mask: Pair it with surgical mask
"Cloth mask is only effective when worn together with a surgical mask. A cloth mask reduces emissions of larger droplets to some extent from an infected person’s nose and mouth, but offers little protection for the uninfected wearer as the material does not significantly filter out small particles," say the experts.
"Many people simply wear cloth mask. Though it doesn't give much protection, but it is better than wearing no mask. Also, if someone only has cloth mask, it is advisable to double up," says Dr Jha.
Triple layer mask
"If someone is having triple layer mask, though it gives you lesser protection than N-95, it is better than a cloth mask and much better than wearing no mask at all," says Dr Jha.
How to wear the mask properly
Experts say that many people keep touching their mask frequently which increases their chances of getting infected. The right fitting is also important as gaps between the edges can make you susceptible.
"What is more important than type of masks is that it should be worn properly and people should avoid touching the mask frequently. What we have seen is that if someone is not very comfortable with his/her mask, they have this tendency to pull down the masks frequently, which leads to infection getting transferred to their hands and then inside the body. That's one of the main reasons why N99 masks are not very popular since it is very difficult to use it for prolonged period," says Dr Jha.
Can we reuse N95 masks?
"Wash your hands and gently remove the N95 mask, place the mask in a sealed plastic, zip-lock bag, or a breathable container such as a paper bag between uses. Secure the bag tightly re-use the mask only on day 7; each mask must be placed in a separate sealed bag and can be re-used on day 7, for up to 4-5 times. For single use N95, place the mask into a sealed bag and place the bag into a garbage can or biomedical waste disposal unit. Surgical masks should be wrapped in a tissue paper or polythene bag and immediately discarded in bins with lids, whereas cloth masks should be washed separately, properly, frequently and left to hang and air dry. Never put on a new mask until you have properly washed your hands. After disposing your single-use and re-usable masks, wash your hands thoroughly," say Dr Saseedharan and Dr Patil.
Dr Jha however cautions against the reuse of the masks
"N95 masks are not reusable. Three ply masks should be changed every 8 hours and N95 masks should be changed daily. Reusing masks can be dangerous," says Dr Jha.
Do not wash your N95 masks
"Another important thing that we all must keep in mind is that these N95 masks are not washable. Many people wash the mask and then re-use it. This destroys the protective nature of the N95 mask," adds Dr Jha.