Mask against or coronavirus: does it work? How to use?

Since the beginning of the spread of the new Coronavirus in Brazil, several people have gone to pharmacies to create a stock of alcohol in gel and protective masks.

At the beginning of the pandemic, health officials like the World Health Organization (WHO) were opposed to the use of masks by uninfected people.

However, this scenario has changed and, in the last few weeks, in some municipalities in Brazil it has been mandatory for all people to wear masks in public places.

In addition, the Ministry of Health has warned the population to use homemade masks as a preventive measure against the new Coronavirus.

In the midst of this news, many people were in doubt about the real effectiveness of protective masks, since previously their use was not being encouraged by WHO.

Keep reading to learn more about the subject and how to produce a homemade mask!

How effective is the mask’s protection and why use it?

The new Coronavirus can be spread via droplets expelled when infected people talk, cough or sneeze.

The protective mask, whether homemade or professional, serves as a physical barrier, reducing the proliferation of these droplets.

This way, if the person is infected, when expelling these droplets, in general, they will be stuck to the mask.

However, use is important not only for those who have been diagnosed or have symptoms.

Often, the person is infected and shows no signs, being called an asymptomatic patient. If the protective mask is not used, you can transmit the virus without knowing it.

Thus, the use of the mask aims not necessarily to prevent the reception of the virus, but rather to create a barrier of dissemination.

Therefore, it is important that the use is made by all , as a measure of transmission control.

To exemplify, when two people are close talking, the risk of contamination changes according to who is wearing the mask:

  • Nobody wears a mask – very high chance of contagion ;
  • Only the uninfected person wears a mask – high chance of contagion ;
  • Only the infected person wears a mask – chance of medium contagion ;
  • Both people wear a mask – low chance of contagion .

Despite this, it is worth mentioning that the use of the mask is not a substitute for other preventive care.

Its use is only effective when it is done in conjunction with hygiene habits such as washing your hands regularly with water and soap or 70% gel alcohol.

Fabric or disposable mask: which one to choose?

With the spread of Covid-19, there was a great search for protective masks in several establishments.

This caused the stock of the item to be emptied in several stores, causing a warning to health authorities.

Therefore, the Ministry of Health advised that disposable surgical masks should be used only by healthcare professionals and people infected or suspected of having Coronavirus.

In addition, it encouraged the general population to make use of fabric masks, produced at home, which are also effective in protection.

This is a measure that aims to avoid the lack of masks for professionals who are at the forefront in fighting the virus.

However, there is in fact a differentiation in their effectiveness.

The disposable surgical mask has a particulate filter, which increases its effectiveness. The one made of cloth, in general, does not have this mechanism.

Tests carried out by Chinese researchers showed that the masks’ effectiveness in blocking the virus was:

  • Mask N95 – 99.98%;
  • Surgical mask – 97.14%;
  • Homemade mask – 95.15%.

Thus, it is worth mentioning that the tissue also helps to protect against the virus, since it acts as a physical barrier between the mucous membranes of the face and external droplets.

Therefore, it is important to follow the recommendations of the health agencies and make use of the masks properly.

How to make a homemade mask?

There are different ways to produce a homemade mask. Despite this, the important thing is that recommendations such as:

  • Use cotton, tricoline or TNT fabrics (“non-woven fabric” made of synthetic material);
  • Have at least 2 layers of cloth (be double-sided);
  • Have measures to cover the entire region of the mouth and nose.

It is worth mentioning that if the masks are made of TNT fabric, they should not be reused, but discarded after each use. If they are made of cotton, they can be reused, provided they are properly washed.

One of the ways to make the mask is by following the steps:

  1. Separate a piece of cloth or tissue large enough to cover the entire region of the mouth and nose;
  2. Fold the fabric in half and then repeat the step, so that the mask has a double layer. It is important that the cloth is of the necessary length to be attached to the ear;
  3. Take 2 rubber bands and place one on each end of the mask, adjusting so that it is comfortable and at a distance that keeps them attached to the fabric;
  4. The fabric ends that are left outside the elastic should be folded towards the center of the cloth, on both sides;
  5. Pull both elastics so that they protrude from the ends that have been bent;
  6.  Put on the face, adjusting the elastics behind the ears.

The mask acts as a physical barrier to the virus. Thus, it is extremely important to have at least 2 layers.

Any type of fabric can be used to produce them – as long as they do not cause damage or allergies to the skin.

However, cotton fabrics are preferable, avoiding synthetics such as pure polyester or others of this class.

How to use mask correctly?

Despite the incentive to use masks, the Ministry of Health and WHO warn that their handling must be done correctly, so that the expected effectiveness is achieved.

For both non-professional (fabric) and professional use masks, some care must be taken when placing, removing and disposing.

Some of them are:

How to put

Before handling the mask, it is important that the person’s hands are sanitized with water and soap or 70% gel alcohol.

It is always worth avoiding direct contact of the hands with the front of the mask, as it can contaminate it or vice versa.

It is essential that the mask covers the entire area of ​​the mouth and nose and is close to the face, without leaving spaces on the sides.

For the placement of the professional surgical mask , the steps are:

  1. Position the mask in front of the face, with the rim upwards, covering the entire area of ​​the mouth and nose;
  2. Tighten the ring under the nose area so that it is securely attached;
  3. Attach the elastics behind the ears or head, depending on the chosen mask;
  4. Carefully pull the accordion mask down so that it covers the entire chin area.

For the use of the homemade fabric mask , the steps are similar.

  1. Position the fabric in front of your face so that it covers the entire mouth and nose area;
  2. Attach the elastics of the mask behind the ear or head, depending on the model chosen;
  3. Carefully adjust the mask so that it also protects the chin area.

For placement, it is important to have as little contact between the hands and the tissue area as possible. Thus, it is worth holding the mask by the elastic for application to the face.

After the start of use, if you have direct hand contact with the mask, clean the skin with water and soap or 70% alcohol gel immediately.

This is a protection because, during use, the outside of the mask can be contaminated. Upon contact, there is the possibility of transferring germs to the hands of those who touch it.

How to discard

Masks bought in pharmacies, that is, surgical ones, should not be washed or reused, but should be discarded after each use.

To discard, it is necessary to first remove the mask correctly from the face.

The steps for withdrawal are:

  1. Remove the mask by means of the elastics that hold it, in the direction from the back of the head to the front, without touching the protective fabric;
  2. Hold only the rubber bands and dispose of them in an appropriate place.

At the time of removal, it is especially important that there is no contact of the hands or other parts of the body with the mask used.

For proper disposal, simply store the mask in a paper or plastic bag and throw it in a trash can with a lid. It is important to wash your hands immediately afterwards.

Fabric masks can be reused as long as they are properly sanitized. However, after a certain period of use, they must follow the same pattern for disposal.

When to switch

According to guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health, the masks must be changed every 2 hours of use, or when they are damp or wet.

It is recommended that each person has more than one mask, so that the exchange is carried out.

This happens because, when the mask is wet, it loses part of its protection potential, therefore, its effectiveness decreases.

How to wash the fabric mask?

Fabric masks can be reused as long as they are properly washed.

The National Health Surveillance Agency (ANVISA) advises that it be washed regularly with water and mild soap and left to soak in the bleach for a time between 20 and 30 minutes.

To soak, it is recommended to dilute 2 tablespoons of bleach in 1 liter of water.

After the sauce, it is important that the fabric is rinsed under running water, so that all remnants of the product are removed.

It is recommended to let it dry and, after that, iron it with a hot iron.

Fabric masks must be reused for a maximum of 30 washes, and it is necessary to disable them after that.

If the fabric is damaged before this time, it is necessary to replace the mask with a new one.

Several actions have been taken to prevent the new Coronavirus and the use of masks is among them.

However, it is important to observe the correct way of handling the product, so that it promotes the expected protection.

In addition, although the masks are allies in combating the pandemic, it is worth remembering that their use does not replace social isolation or hand hygiene care!

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