Do masks work? Many people are venturing out to the store with a mask, gloves, and wielding a big bottle of hand sanitizer. But do these things really help against the Covid-19 virus? The short answer is Yes and No.
Anything you do to place a barrier between your skin, eyes, mouth and lungs and a contaminated particle will help. That’s common sense. But research has gone into great depth testing these things and there’s information you need to know.
First, I’d like to explain that anything you do that makes you feel better, safer, less scared, and gets you back to your chosen routine is beneficial. Even if proven to be largely ineffective, things that add to your safety, even if perceived, are a benefit to your health…mental and physical.
Second, I’d like to also explain that nobody should use masks, gloves, and hand sanitizers as an excuse not to do the most basic things to keep yourself safe. I’ll explain later in this article.
Here’s the explanation:
Masks – It’s true that any barrier keeps some particles from being inhaled and can limit your exposure to bacteria and viruses. The better the mask, such as N-95, the better the protection….from “what passes through the mask”. Research has shown that the virus passes through the masks in people who have the virus. They tested the inside and outside of the mask on people infected with Covid-19 and found that the virus was on the outside as well as the inside of the mask. However, if that person breathed and coughed, the mask would keep the virus closer to them than if they didn’t wear one. A cough can travel 30 feet or more unless covered.
Do masks work? Here’s where masks fail:
- Air leaks around the mask on exhale and inhale. So anything in the air will get in and anything in you will get out. Don’t believe me? Just wear glasses and breathe normally. With a mask on, you’ll fog your glasses.
- The mask traps and accumulates pathogens (a bacterium, virus, or other microorganisms that can cause disease)
So, if you wear the mask more than once, you touched the outside taking it off and possibly touched the inside when putting it on, thus contaminating it.
- The mask creates a false sense of security that can prevent you from doing what you would otherwise do to protect yourself.
Gloves – Gloves are great! They keep you from getting your hands greasy, protect from spray paint or stains, and keep your skin as clean as it was when you put them on. But, will gloves help protect you from the coronavirus? The answer is yes they can. But here’s where gloves fail:
- Gloves must be frequently changed. Every time you touch something contaminated, you should remove your gloves before touching anything else. That’s a ton of gloves!
- Gloves must be removed properly to avoid contaminating clean surfaces and your bare hands. Here’s a post about how to properly remove disposable gloves. https://www.globus.co.uk/how-to-safely-remove-disposable-gloves
- Gloves may create a false sense of security that can prevent you from doing what you would otherwise do to protect yourself.
Hand Sanitizer – Hand sanitizer is actually the most effective and easy to use item on this list but pales in comparison to normally washing hands with regular soap for 20 seconds. I know it sounds counter-intuitive but it’s true. Here’s the detail:
Hand sanitizer needs to be at least 60% alcohol to have any effect on COVID-19. The reason why normally washing your hands with regular soap for 20 seconds is more effective is due to the nature of the virus. Why 20 seconds? This sounds crazy, but the virus has an outer membrane or envelope, which needs to be busted before the virus can be attacked. So the friction from washing your hands with any soap for 20 seconds can burst the membrane, wash off and deactivate or kill the virus. Likewise, alcohol-based hand sanitizers can deactivate or pierce the outer membrane and thus kill the virus. The problem with hand sanitizers is that they do nothing to remove the contaminant. It’s still there because you didn’t wash it off. So, in the end, regularly washing your hands for 20 seconds often is still the best protection from bacteria and viruses and can be much better for your skin.
Common Sense – No matter what government agencies come out and tell you. it’s a good idea to trust your gut instincts. Everyone else may have motives other than your best interest and wellbeing. So here are some of my truths that I believe, no matter what anyone else tells me:
- In crowds or busy stores, I will wear a new mask or one I have disinfected. I feel it’s better than nothing if someone coughs in my direction. Do masks work? I don’t know.
- Walking behind someone, a fan, or wind, can completely negate the 6-foot rule. If you can smell body odor, you can catch COVID-19 from them.
- Only touch my eyes, nose or mouth with clean hands.
- Everything that I could touch can transmit the virus. Therefore, I will avoid touching those things unless my hands are clean.
***side note – I went to the grocery store and saw an elderly woman coming out with a mask, clear goggles, and nitrile gloves pushing her grocery cart. I watched as she unloaded the groceries, took the cart back and then got her keys from her pocket. Gloves still on. Then she opened her car and got in. With her hand on the steering wheel, she started the car and then proceeded to take off her gloves, mask, and goggles. Then with bare hands, she gripped the steering wheel and then rubbed her face and eyes. This single act completely eliminated any benefit of her mask, gloves, and goggles. So, do masks work?
I felt sorry for her because she was very frail and I could tell she was scared of contracting the virus. But she had to go to the store. She just didn’t have the experience to use protective products correctly.
In conclusion, Do Masks Work?
Masks have a marginal effect on protecting you from a microscopic virus, but help filter larger particles that may contain a pathogen. In short, they may help against a cough or sneeze either inbound or outbound. Mostly the latter.
Gloves can help if you remove them properly and change them often. But avoiding touching your face and washing your hands for at least 20 seconds often can be a better option, and easier on the pocketbook.
Hand Sanitizer works best in between washing hands properly and should not be used as a sole means of cleaning your hands.
Common sense, hand washing, and disinfecting commonly touched surfaces is the best protection against contamination from pathogens, such as COVID-19.
That’s my two cents…