Antiviral Face Mask = More Protection?
Face Mask Protection
We all want the most protection from our masks as we prepare to go out into public spaces. Whether for trips to the grocery store or doctor’s appointments. Since the COVID-19 virus outbreak began, we have been looking for the best protective materials. Not only for us but for our loved ones. But do masks with an antiviral coating provide more protection than a cloth mask or standard N95 mask? The onset of COVID-19 has led to a new industry of masks. A seemingly endless options and you need to know which have your best interests at heart. This article will explain what constitutes those advertised as antiviral face masks and what we know about them so far.
Related: 5 Facts About the COVID-19
What Makes an Antiviral Face Mask?
There are many companies now offering masks with new technology that are touted as having an antiviral effect, making it a more effective defense against coronavirus.
A standard cloth mask has at least two layers of tightly-woven fabric. They are meant to provide a barrier against respiratory droplets from getting in or out. So, what makes a mask advertised as “antiviral” different? These masks have the same protective measures as standard as half masks, but have added some other features.
These masks are most often coated with additional materials that claim to have more virus-fighting ability. Added materials can include copper alloys, which have impressive antibacterial and antiviral properties. The material coating is meant to kill any airborne virus that passes through the mask. Preventing it from getting into your lungs.
Masks coated with silver ions have the same advertised virucidal benefits. Many companies are experimenting with new ways to filter and kill viruses with the use of new technology in masks. It’s a potent tool in fighting the spread of viruses such as SARS and COVID-19.
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Do They Offer More Protection?
The simple answer is that it’s too early to tell if they offer more protection than a standard cloth or N95 mask. Protective medical equipment such as masks used to prevent virus spread can take years of studies and careful consideration of every aspect of how it would affect our health. For example, something that has such a powerful effect as an antibacterial material may have an adverse impact on us when we use it so close to our mouths.
Websites that sell masks with antiviral coatings often don’t provide much or any information on how the masks were tested for effectiveness or safety, according to the Associated Press. These masks haven’t been tested and studied by government-approved independent sources. Until then we can’t know if they are any safer or potentially harmful. This isn’t ideal as one of these masks can often cost much more than a pack of N95 masks.
It can take years to test and design new mask technology that is proven to add more protection. Simply, masks that incorporate antiviral coatings may very well add protection to masks. We won’t know until that is proven by studies.
Which Masks Work Best Against COVID-19?
The N95 offers formidable protection against COVID-19 as they have the ability to remove 95% or more airborne particles. The medical-grade N95 mask’s dramatic ability to fight droplets from COVID-19 makes it a powerful way to protect yourself. When in short supply, they are best reserved for those who have the most need for it, such as individuals in high-risk categories for the virus and medical professionals. The N95 mask is not meant to be worn too many times. It should be retired after two or three uses.
To better fight the spread of COVID-19, the CDC recommends that the average person use a snugly fitting mask with at least two layers and made from a tightly woven fabric (can be tested to see if a light shines through it). The CDC says that you should not wear masks with vents or exhalation valves, scarves, or masks with one layer that are too flimsy. Cloth masks that are reusable and washable are a convenient and CDC-advised method for the general public while minimizing time in public spaces.
Mask best practices can often provide the best protection. Especially if we do not know if masks with antiviral coatings offer additional protection. Wear a NIOSH approved mask whenever possible around other people that are not within your immediate circle. When in public, ensure your mask sits tightly, covering your mouth and nose at all times. Take off your mask by the straps and wash your hands when safely back in your home.
What Doesn’t Work
- Masks only meant for sawdust or metal particulates that are meant for carpentry or other trades work are not recommended as they aren’t meant to filter out viruses or droplets.
- Surgical masks are meant for medical professionals conducting surgery and are too loose to prevent the spread of small droplets.
- Masks with vents may make it slightly easier to breathe, but they don’t do as good of a job preventing the spread of germs and viruses.
- Items like face shields are not recommended as their effectiveness has not been tested thoroughly enough to be worn as a replacement for properly fitting masks.
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It is just too early to tell if masks with extra antiviral coatings such as copper or silver can be more effective at fighting infection from COVID-19. Although some mask manufacturers are already producing and selling masks with antiviral layers, not enough is known about them, and there have not been any conclusive independent studies that attest to the safety or protection that these products provide. For now, stay within the CDC guidelines. They are the best information source when it comes to protection against viruses. Following their guidance means properly wearing a two-layer mask, staying home when possible, and washing and sanitizing your hands frequently.