Do face masks protect against coronovirus and when should I wear one? – The Sun

WE all want a mask that isn't useless, but no one wants to make the PPE or covid-crisis worse for the NHS by taking all the premium stuff they really need to be wearing.

Brits are now being urged by our top scientists to wear facemasks while in public to stop the spread of coronavirus.

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You do not need the medical-grade masks (N95, FFP3) if you are not in direct contact with someone who has coronavirus.
Masks don't stop a person from catching covid, but they can lessen the spread if someone is infectious and any protection is better than nothing.

Here's everything you need to know about picking the right facemask for you.

Do face masks protect against coronavirus infection?

The latest official information from the UK government is to wear a face covering in public even if you have no symptoms.

You really don't need to waste your money on expensive surgical and N95 masks just to go down the shops. Please leave them for the NHS heroes that do.

Wearing masks will reduce the risks of contraction under poorly ventilated circumstances by diverting the flow of infected breath away from your mouth.

They are far less effective if not worn and fitted properly as they will not be able to form a seal and filtration.

If you do invest in a high-grade mask then you only need one per person as they can be washed and reused if you wash it thoroughly at over 60C.

A face covering

A simple face covering like a scarf or a bandana is all you need to keep relatively safe in day to day circumstances like public transport.

While no mask can guarantee you not catching the virus, it will catch a lot more infectious airborne particles than nothing, upping your personal safety drastically.

This is what the top UK experts are recommending for 95 per cent of us – we're all going to look like bandits.

You can also make your own (see below), which can be a good family activity for bored kids and creative parents.


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Surgical masks

These are the masks worn by most dentists and surgeons when operating under normal circumstances.

While not full hazmat, they offer a decent amount of protection against pathogens like body fluid splatter, saliva and the vapours from drilling into bones and teeth.

They will protect the wearer to the same degree as a good homemade face mask.

Surgical masks can vary in design, but the mask itself is often flat and rectangular in shape with pleats or folds.

The top of the mask contains a metal strip that can be formed to your nose and should be pulled down under your chin.


N95, surgical and FFP3 masks are disposable face masks that are proven to filter the air to an industrial standard.

Manufacturers vary, but the N95 is a stamp from the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to show that it is efficient, which comes with a logo, FFP3 is similar.

The N95 stamp means that when subjected to lab testing, the respirator blocks at least 95 per cent of 0.3 microns (0.00003 cm) test particles.

Droplets of less than one-micron size represent 97 per cent of droplets contained in cough aerosol.

These masks are in short supply and the NHS, corona-victims and our vulnerable need them.


FFP3 Mask respirators provide protection against solid and liquid aerosols and smoke.

They are normally used by people handling hazardous materials like asbestos or working with patients who have tuberculosis.

These are the ones worn by the NHS when they can get them.

Do not buy them unless you are directly exposed to someone in your home who has coronavirus, or strongly believe you have it yourself.

Save them for our NHS heroes and the extremely vulnerable.

What are the drawbacks to FFP3 and N95 masks?

High-grade masks generally have an 8-hour shelf life before becoming clogged depending on the work you're doing.

If worn incorrectly then they are ineffective. If worn correctly then they are uncomfortable.

If these masks become moist, which they will because of the humidity caused by the wearer breathing into them, then they are also compromised.

This is why medical workers or infected people need to be changing them consistently.

PHE said: "Facemasks must be worn correctly, changed frequently, removed properly, disposed of safely and used in combination with good universal hygiene behaviour in order for them to be effective.

When should I wear a face mask?

Masking the mouth and nose limits asymptomatic people — who are infected but show no symptoms — from passing on the disease by coughing or sneezing.

The general rule is to wear a face mask when you are out in public, in areas that could involve coming into contact with other people, like public transport, exercising in urban areas, or popping to the shop or walking the dog.

Don't wear them around the house unless someone at home is believed to be infected.

Remember social distancing rules as you normally would under lockdown, even if wearing a mask and don't be a covidiot.

If you believe you have symptoms, sit tight at home and get someone else to go out for you if you can.

Invest in a high-grade mask if you believe you are infected, or extremely vulnerable to the virus (if you have cancer for example), and absolutely have to go out.

How to wear a mask properly if you need one

The major issue with the masks is that most people don't wear them the right way, compromising their efficiency.

When applied correctly they will form a seal, like a pair of swimming goggles, but get hot and stuffy, so most people are likely to try and open them at the sides to breathe better, defeating the purpose.

Manufacturers advise that the mask must cover both the nose and mouth to keep you from breathing in mould and dust. If it does not have a snug fit, it will not work properly.

It must form a seal around your mouth and nose, which is why we are seeing medics with bruising and red marks on their cheeks.

It will not work properly for people with beards or facial hair. Even one-day beard growth has been shown to let air leak in, so shave.

Can I make my own face mask at home?

Yes, and it's pretty easy and cheap too. Kids can help as well which makes it something fun for them to do.

There is no reason why you can't get creative and decorate the mask so long as you don't damage it – break loose the glitter and crayons.

How can I protect myself without a mask?

Social distancing is the main and cheapest way to stop yourself getting infected.

Hygene is insanely important too – wash your hands as you would if everything outside of your home had poop on it and you'll be ok. Make sure your family is doing the same too.

Scrub the house down from time to time and keep things clean as you normally would a food prep area in a kitchen, not an operating theatre.

Stay as far from everyone as you can, at least 2 metres, and stay at home as much as possible – think stranger danger, but be nice because this is horrible for everyone and a smile from a distance doesn't spread corona.

MIT Professor Lydia Bourouiba did a recent study on pathogen emissions and concluded that droplets have a range of more than 2 metres.

She said: "Having this false idea of safety at one to two metres, that somehow drops will just fall to the ground at that distance is not based on what we have quantified, measured and visualised directly."

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