coronavirus masks

Coronavirus Masks: Types, Protection, How & When to Use

People are trying to stock coronavirus masks to protect themselves from the infection. This has led to a huge demand for face masks of different types. In December 2019, a new strain of virus started infecting people. The scientists suggest it originated from the meat market in Wuhan, China. The novel virus started spreading rapidly throughout the world. Within a span of a few months, it has infected and killed lakhs of people around the globe. The WHO suggests SARS-CoV-2 is the virus behind the pandemic. The disease is referred to as COVID-19 (coronavirus infection). People who have suffered from the disease may show breathing difficulty, fever, pneumonia, or respiratory failure. Others may not show any symptoms or have mild illness. It usually causes complications for elderly people or people with other underlying health conditions.

Every country around the world is no urging its citizens to use a face mask while they go outside. Studies indicate that Google searches for protective masks have spiked around the world. So, the question is if these are effective in preventing the infection? Should you wear them? How to use them properly? What types are best for people? So, many doubts swirl around your mind. Read on to learn the answers to such crucial questions. It will help you make the right choice and keep you safe.

Types Of Coronavirus Masks

Coronavirus Masks When you hear about COVID-19 and the necessary protection, the first thing that pops in your mind is the use of face coverings. It is the best option considered to prevent the spread of the disease. You have the option to choose from the three types:

To know how it is useful for preventing coronavirus infection, you need to know more about them. So, let us explore each of them in detail:

Homemade Cloth Coronavirus Masks

Homemade Cloth Coronavirus Masks

It is the easiest option to prevent the spread of coronavirus infection spread from people who show no symptoms. With a percentage of people asymptomatic, the risk of infection is great. So, choosing a cloth cover to keep the fluids from spraying on others in public places. Social distancing is difficult to maintain in busy places. So, maintaining a six-foot distance from one another becomes impossible. So, using the cover along with proper hygiene practices, you can reduce the possibility of getting the infection. But, while using the mask made of cloth, you have to follow the guidelines.

Recommendations While Using Cloth Coronavirus Masks

To ensure you get protection from coronavirus, follow the recommendation while using the mask:

  • Wear the coronavirus cloth masks in public settings. So, always step out from your home wearing it when you go to areas with increased risk of community-based transmissions like pharmacy and groceries.
  • Never put the face mask in children below two years of age, people who have trouble breathing, patients who are unconscious, or people who find it difficult to remove the mask on their won. It is due to the increased risk of suffocating.
  • Try to choose a cloth mask instead of the other types (surgical or N95 respirator) as they are critical supplies. So, it is reserved for healthcare workers as well as other medical responders who are more at risk of contracting the infection.
  • Healthcare professionals coming in contact with infected people need to exercise extreme caution while they opt for homemade cloth mask. These never offer complete protection during high-risk situations. So, it is important to use it in combination with a face shield. The shield helps cover your front and the sides of the face. The shield extends to the chin or below, which will prevent virus transmission.
  • It is important to wash the cloth cover after every use. While removing the cover, never allow it to touch your eyes, mouth, or nose. After you remove the cover, wash your hands with soap and water.

Benefits Of Homemade Cloth Coronavirus Masks

People choosing the type of face cover need to know the benefits of it for continuous usage. Here are the pros:

  • The face cover made using cloth is easy to access. If you cannot buy it, then you can make them at home with ease. It is made from the common materials available at home. So, you have an unlimited supply of the items to make the face cover.
  • When people use the face cover, it increases the risk of transmission of the infection from an asymptomatic person to others. So, a person who shows no signs of the infection can wear it to prevent transmission of coronavirus through coughing, speaking, or sneezing.
  • It is the best way to protect yourself from any air-borne infection, including coronavirus infection. It is better than not opting for any cover for your nose and mouth when you visit places where it is hard to maintain social distancing.

Risks Of Using Homemade Cloth Coronavirus Masks

While using the face cover made of cloth has many advantages, it fails to offer you complete protection. It has certain risks associated with it like:

  • It provides a false sense of security. While it offers you protection to a certain extent, it is less compared to other types like surgical covers or respirators. According to a study, the face made using cloth is only half as effective as the N95 respirators and surgical masks.
  • Using the cloth face cover will not replace or reduce the need for other measures needed to protect yourself. So, you need to follow proper hygiene practices. It is also essential to follow social distancing to keep yourself safe from the infection.

Surgical Coronavirus Masks

Surgical Coronavirus Masks

The surgical mask may vary in design, but the basic model is usually flat and rectangular in shapes. It may have folds or pleats. The top of the face cover consists of a strip, which molds to your nose to offer coverage from harmful pathogens. So, it avoids such harmful pathogens from reaching your nose or mouth. The masks have long, straight ties or elastic bands that help the protective cover to stay in place when you wear it. You can either tie it behind your head or loop behind the ears. You can use and dispose of the protective cover after using it. The loose-fitting product covers the chin, mouth, and nose. It is normally suggested for the following:

  • Offer protection to people wearing it from splashes, sprays, as well as, large-particle.
  • It also prevents the spread of infectious secretions from your respiratory system from the wearer to other people.

Recommendations While Using Surgical Coronavirus Masks

In the majority of the cases, surgical coronavirus masks are used in the hospitals by the healthcare team. But, while using it is important to follow certain guidelines:

  • It is important to wear the type of cover when a person has more exposure to large droplets or splashed bodily fluids. The fluid-resistant mask can offer protection to vulnerable people who work closely with infected patients. Since it requires no fit testing, healthcare professionals can wear it with ease.
  • While compared to the N95 respirators, the surgical cover may not offer protection against aerosols. So, healthcare professionals using it must refrain from using it while coming in contact with patients suffering from coronavirus infection during aerosol-generating procedures.

Benefits Of Using Surgical Coronavirus Mask

Using the surgical face cover has its own benefits. Here are some of them:

  • It is an extremely valuable piece of PPE that offers protection to a healthcare professional who comes in contact with patients suffering from coronavirus infection.
  • It can trap droplets and help prevent the spread of the disease when the mask wearer sneezes or coughs.
  • The mask also offers protection to the medical staff from exposure to asymptomatic patients or staff who have not received a COVID-19 diagnosis.

Risks Associated With Surgical Coronavirus Mask

While the mask offers better protection compared to cloth covers, it is not fool-proof. So, it has some risks associated with it:

  • The mask does not offer protection from very small particles that can reach your nose or mouth through the gaps in the mask.
  • Since you need to discard the cover after using it, you need to maintain a sufficient supply of the product to keep the staff working in the hospitals or healthcare facility safe.

N95 Respirators

N95 Respirators

It is a valuable piece of PPE. An N95 respirator is more tight-fitting compared to other masks. So, it can prevent large droplets, sprays, splashes, and very small particles from entering your body through nose or mouth. So, it offers effective protection from different kinds of viruses and bacteria. The product has an oval or circular shape that is designed to tightly seal your face. It has elastic bands to keep the product firmly on your face. In some types, you can see an attachment. It is known as the exhalation valve that can aid in breathing properly. It also helps the buildup of humidity and heat.

Recommendation To Use N95 Respirators

Hospitals or other organizations having staff coming in contact with infectious people need to follow the recommendations suggested:

  • Earlier, the use of N95 respirators was limited to treating patients with highly aerosolized respiratory, infectious diseases like tuberculosis. The normal protocol is to discard these masks after every patient visit. But, due to the unavailability of such protective equipment, every healthcare facility is facing a short supply of the product. So, clinicians are advised to reuse the mask after decontaminating it.
  • With almost all countries around the world suffering from the pandemic, the demand for such protective covers has increased, but the supply has reduced. So, every healthcare setting must follow the decontamination protocol to ensure the reuse of the mask. A machine generating vaporized hydrogen peroxide is used to decontaminate the masks.
  • Limiting the mask used to healthcare workers who are providing direct patient care is essential. The healthcare workers who come in very close contact with the infected patients using procedures like intubations for ventilators. These procedures increase the risk of infection as it generated large amounts of aerosolized particles.

Benefits Of Using N95 Respirators

Compared to other types of masks, the healthcare worker prefers N95s. It is because of the benefits it offers that includes:

  • Every person using it needs to check for a perfect fit. So, one-size-fits-all may not work for the mask. Due to the perfect fit, it avoids the different types of viruses or bacteria to access your nose or mouth.
  • As it allows easier exhalation compared to other types of protective covers, you can wear it comfortably by preventing humidity.
  • It also reduces the uncomfortable carbon dioxide and heat buildup inside the mask.

Risks Of Using N95 Respirators

The use of N95 respirators has some drawbacks. The hospital or healthcare setting needs to follow all the guidelines associated with the use of the protective cover. Else, it may not offer effective results. So, the risks associated are:

  • The N95 respirators need fit-testing before you use it. It is essential to form a proper seal. Without a tight seal to the face, people using it may not receive the necessary protection.
  • After you perform the fit testing, it is essential to perform a seal check every time you use it. So, N95 respirators need continuous checking to ensure its effectiveness.
  • The tight seal essential to avoid the infected droplets from reaching the nose, mouth, and eyes. But, it is not possible to achieve a tight seal in certain groups like people with facial hair and children.
  • The general public is not recommended for the use of N95 respirators. So, it is only accessible to people working in a healthcare setting.

Protection Offered By The Different Types Of Coronavirus Masks

Protection Offered By The Different Types Of Coronavirus Masks

Coronavirus infection affects a person when you inhale the small respiratory droplets from the infected person. SARS-CoV-2 is present in the respiratory droplets generated when an infected person coughs, exhales, or sneezes. An uninfected person can contract the infection when you breathe in the respiratory droplets. Apart from that, the infected respiratory droplets with the virus land on various surfaces and objects. So, when you touch the contaminated surface or objects and then touch your mouth, nose, or eyes, it leads to infection. So, how can using the different types of coronavirus masks offer you protection? Read ahead:

Homemade Cloth Coronavirus Masks

When you use cloth protective covers, it only offers a small degree of protection. But, it is effective in preventing the spread of coronavirus infection from asymptomatic people to others. So, as a responsible person, you need to use it in a public setting. If every person uses masks and practices proper hygiene along with social distancing can prevent the spread of the disease.

Surgical Coronavirus Masks

People who work closely with coronavirus infected people may not receive complete protection from SARS-CoV-2. It is because the mask does not filter out smaller aerosol particles. It also causes air leakage through the sides of the mask during inhalation, which increases the risk of infection.

N95 Respirators

N95 respirators offer better protection to people working closely with the infected person. It protects people against smaller respiratory droplets. So, it avoids the droplets containing SARS-CoV-2 from reaching your nose, mouth, or eyes. But, the masks are not allowed access outside the healthcare setting. It is because of the following:

  • For the N95 respirator to work properly, you need to fit-test it. A poor seal can cause leakage and lead to the ineffectiveness of the product.
  • N95 respirator works properly due to its tight fit. But, it can make it uncomfortable and stuffy to use it. So, people wearing it find it difficult to use it for long periods of time.
  • The worldwide supply of N95 respirators is limited due to the high demand. So, it is right now it is available to people working closely with infected patients. Only first responders and health care professionals have easy access to it.

Other Effective Ways To Prevent Coronavirus Infection

Apart from using coronavirus masks, you must also follow other effective ways to prevent the infection. So, using the other techniques along with using the face cover can effectively prevent illness. Follow the guidelines provided below:

  • Clean your hands frequently with soap and water. You can also use alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available for better protection.
  • Practice social distancing and try to maintain the specified distance in the public setting.
  • Avoid contact with people who are sick and try to stay at home when you have coronavirus cases in your community.
  • You need to become conscious of your face. So, try to avoid touching your face, eyes, mouth, or nose with unclean hands.

Wearing Coronavirus Masks While Taking Care Of People With COVID-19

If you a loved one at home suffering from COVID-19, then you need to take the following steps while caring for them:

  • You need to isolate them from the other members of the family. Try to provide them with a room with an attached bathroom. It is to avoid infected people from having access to others.
  • Try to have a supply of surgical masks at your home. It is better to use surgical cover instead of cloth-based ones as it offers better protection when you go around others.
  • Infected people need to wear a protective cover to prevent the spread of infection. But, some people with coronavirus infection cannot wear a mask. It is because using them can make breathing harder. In such cases, the caretakers need to wear one and follow other techniques like using gloves and handwashing while helping to care for infected people.
  • It is also necessary to use disposable gloves while handling the soiled clothes used by the infected person. After use, throw the gloves away in the garbage bin and close it. After every use wash your hands properly.
  • Keep your hands clean by washing your hands with soap and water frequently. If soap and water are not available, then use alcohol-based (at least 60%) hand sanitizer. Never touch your mouth, nose, or eyes with unclean hands.
  • Clean the high-risk surface area daily. The high-touch surface areas like doorknobs, countertops, keyboards, and phones can transfer the contamination. Use a disinfectant or other allowed cleaning fluids to clean the surface.

How To Use Different Types Of Masks?

After you opt for the best type of protective cover for keeping you safe, you need to understand how to use it properly. Before using the cover, remember, it does not offer fool-proof protection against coronavirus infection. But, it does trap infectious respiratory secretions. So, it plays a main role in preventing the spread of the disease to others in your surroundings.

Using Surgical/Cloth Masks

For using a cloth or surgical mask properly, you can follow the instructions suggested below:

  • Before wearing any kind of protective cover, you need to clean your hands. You can either wash your hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • You need to inspect the mask for any holes or tear before putting it on. It is because the presence of holes/tear may cause the protective cover to malfunction.
  • For the surgical mask, the white or metal strip is the top of the mask. You have to place the mask in such a way that the strip comes on top.
  • You need to orient the mask to make the colored side face outside. So, for both cloth and surgical protective cover has a colored side away from you.
  • You need to place the top part of the mask on the bridge of your nose. The strip must mold to the shape of your nose.
  • Now, carefully tie the long and straight ties behind your head or loop the elastic band behind the ears.
  • Pull the bottom of your mask in such a manner to ensure it covers nose, mouth, ad your chin.
  • Avoid touching your mask when you wear it with your hands. Before and after adjusting the mask, wash your hands, or use sanitizer.
  • While taking off the mask, you need to undo the ties from behind the head or unloop the band from behind the ears. Never touch the front part of the mask due to a high risk of contamination.
  • Dispose of the mask promptly (in case of surgical cover) in a closed garbage bin. In the case of cloth cover, wash it properly and dry it before reuse. You need to clean your hand thoroughly afterward.

Using N95 Respirator

Read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions while using the N95 respirator. Make sure it covers your nose and mouth while allowing you to breathe properly. The snug fit ensures you never breathe mold or dust. Since the mask may not fit people with facial hair, it is necessary to shave and keep the skin smooth. Ensure both the straps hold the mask in place and keeps the air from leaking from the sides.

Make Sure The Mask Fits

Make Sure The

You need to perform a seal check along with positive and negative pressure checks to ensure the mask is placed correctly and adjusted for a snug fit.

Negative Pressure Check

You need to place both hands over the mask. Then, inhale sharply without disturbing the mask position. With the action, the mask must pull into your face. In case of air leakage around the face or eyes, adjust the nosepiece and straps to repeat the process.

Positive Pressure Check

Place both hands on mask (cover exhalation valve if available) and exhale sharply. You must not find air leakage. If it occurs re-adjust straps and nosepiece. Then, repeat the process.

When To Use Coronavirus Masks?

It is the main doubt you may have in your mind regarding the use of the type of coronavirus masks in a different setting. Here are the recommendations:

  • You can opt for cloth face coverings in a public setting when you find it difficult to maintain the six-foot distance from others.
  • Use the cloth protective cover when you continue to practice social distancing as well as proper hygiene when you go out.
  • Reserve surgical masks for people who work with infected patients. So, you need to reserve it for people working in a hospital or healthcare setting and people who take care of COVID-19 patients at home.
  • Wear a surgical mask when you need to stay around others or when you suspect the infection yourself. It will help prevent the spread of infection.
  • You need the surgical masks an N95 respirator people who come more in contact with infected people. So, reserve it for healthcare workers and hospitals.
  • N95 respirators need fit-tested to ensure it seals effectively and offers protection against infection caused due to SARS-CoV-2. So, it is ideal for healthcare workers to come in contact with patients on a daily basis.

Due to the pandemic, the world is currently facing a shortage of surgical masks and N95 respirators. So, as a responsible person, you can opt for face protection made from clothes. It is because healthcare workers urgently need N95 respirators and surgical masks. You can donate an unused batch of surgical face cover to hospitals or check with your local state health department.


You have different types of coronavirus masks for people with varying degrees of exposure to SARS-CoV-2. As a responsible person choose to wear a mask to keep yourself safe. Along with the use of masks, you must also practice good hygiene and social distancing. With ample care and precaution, we can overcome the current critical situation.

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