With the coronavirus outbreak spreading to Malaysia, everyone is looking for ways to protect themselves. One of the most in-demand items right now are surgical face masks, but do you really know about the face mask that you have bought? Which mask is the best in protecting you from virus? Is N95 mask the best in filtering the virus? Should we throw away the mask after wearing it once? No worries, we have concluded everything you should know about face mask to clear your doubts.

 

Does face mask really work?

Yes, wearing a mask in the right way can help to filter out airborne particles.

In 2008, a clinical research published in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases concluded that proper usage of a face mask can help to prevent the spreading of a disease. If there is a family member that are diagnosed with influenza, it is found that the rate of infections is lowered by 80% if the family members wear a face mask in the correct way.

However, it is also found that the rate of infection risk will not decrease for people who wear a mask but do not wash their hands regularly. Therefore, you should always remember to wash your hands the proper way.

How should we wear a mask?

Disposable face masks should be used once and then thrown in the trash. You should also remove and replace masks when they become moist.

Steps to put on a face mask

  1. Clean your hands with soap and water or hand sanitiser before touching the mask.
  2. Remove a mask from the box and make sure there are no obvious tears or holes in either side of the mask.
  3. Determine which side of the mask is the top. The side of the mask that has a stiff bendable edge is the top and is meant to mould to the shape of your nose.
  4. Determine which side of the mask is the front. The coloured side of the mask is usually the front and should face away from you, while the white side touches your face.
  5. Follow the instructions below for the type of mask you are using.
    • Face Mask with Earloops: Hold the mask by the ear loops. Place a loop around each ear.
    • Face Mask with Ties: Bring the mask to your nose level and place the ties over the crown of your head and secure with a bow. Then, take the bottom ties, one in each hand, and secure with a bow at the nape of your neck. 
    • Pull the bottom of the mask over your mouth and chin.
    • Face Mask with Bands: Hold the mask in your hand with the nosepiece or top of the mask at fingertips, allowing the headbands to hang freely below hands.  Bring the mask to your nose level and pull the top strap over your head so that it rests over the crown of your head.  Pull the bottom strap over your head so that it rests at the nape of your neck. Mould or pinch the stiff edge to the shape of your nose.

How to remove a face mask

  1. Clean your hands with soap and water or hand sanitiser before touching the mask. Avoid touching the front of the mask. The front of the mask is contaminated. Only touch the ear loops/ties/band. Follow the instructions below for the type of mask you are using.
  2. Face Mask with Earloops: Hold both of the ear loops and gently lift and remove the mask.
  3. Face Mask with Ties: Untie the bottom bow first then untie the top bow and pull the mask away from you as the ties are loosened.
  4. Face Mask with Bands: Lift the bottom strap over your head first then pull the top strap over your head.
  5. Throw the mask in the trash. Clean your hands with soap and water or hand sanitiser.

What are the types of masks?

There are different types of masks sold in the market. The most common ones include N95 mask, surgical mask, activated carbon mask, sponge mask and cotton face mask. Different face masks have different filtration rate and functions. N95 mask and surgical mask are recommended in protecting us from airborne particles. It helps to prevent up to 95% of particles. Meanwhile, activated carbon mask, sponge mask and cotton face mask are not recommended as they are mainly used to block large particles and absorbs bad odour.

What are the difference between N95 and surgical face mask?

The CDC has issued guidelines on two different kinds of face masks – surgical masks and N95 masks – which are commonly worn by healthcare professionals and those who are already sick.

Wearing surgical masks helps to filter out 90% of particles with a mass median diameter of 0.5 micrometres. However, the downside of surgical masks is they are loose-fitting, and when the wearer inhales, there is potential for particles to leak in or out of the sides.

N95 masks are recommended for healthcare professionals by the CDC in the event they are treating patients who are infected by the new coronavirus. The N95 masks, which require testing and approval by the CDC, are tight-fitting and filter out at least 95% of airborne particles. However, N95 masks are supposed to be fit tested to ensure they work correctly, so people who are not trained could put them on the wrong way might instead negate the preventative effects. N95 masks are also difficult for people to wear effectively for prolonged periods of time.

How to recognise a fake N95 mask?

There are many fake N95 masks in the market. Wearing a face mask can lead to negation of the preventative effects and even worse, health issues due to the materials involved in the production of the face masks. To make sure you are buying the right N95 mask, you should always check their price and packaging before buying it.

3M Malaysia doesn’t fix the price in the market. You may find 3M 8210 N95 masks cost from RM 35 – RM 100 (the selling price in the pharmacy is around RM 5/piece). It’s a wide margin. How can you tell whether it’s a real or fake product? If your 3M 8210 costed below RM 50, it has a chance that you got the imitation product. If not, the product might be imported from other countries, which doesn’t under 3M Malaysia’s coverage.

You should also check out an article written by Thai Residents, who wrote a detailed post comparing the fake and real N95 masks.

To conclude, the N95 mask provides the best protection against the virus. However, you may want to learn the ways to put on an N95 mask correctly so that it fits you perfectly. Some may find it uncomfortable to wear N95 masks and some couldn’t wear them for long. If it’s that case, you should consider wearing a surgical face mask instead of not wearing any face mask. 

Lastly, don’t forget to wash your hands regularly! Avoid going to crowded areas and wear a mask whenever you go out.