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Covid-19 pandemic: Which mask should you wear?

Apr 22, 2021 15:00 IST | By Vishakha Somani

As the nation battles a gruesome second wave, face masks and social distancing have become more important than ever before. As you might already know, the novel coronavirus spreads mostly from person to person through respiratory droplets.

Face masks have proven to be a simple but effective barrier to help curtail the spread. Whether you feel sick or not, you have to wear a mask whenever you are around people whose whereabouts you cannot account for.

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But as the pandemic takes a deadly turn, here’s a lowdown on the different type of masks and which one should you be wearing to protect yourself.  


The N95 is the most effective mask, blocking at least 95 per cent of microparticles. Due to their being a critical and limited supply, WHO recommends that only health workers, Covid-19 care providers and people who have virus symptoms wear the N95 mask.  


Medical or surgical masks generally spotted in blue or green, are a grade below N95 in protection. They are designed for single-use and should not be washed. Wear the medical mask in situations where your mask is likely to get wet or dirty. Medical masks are recommended for high-risk groups including people above the age of 60 and people with co-morbidities. 


Masks with exhalation valves are not recommended for Covid-19 protection. The hole in the material may allow your respiratory droplets to escape and reach others. 


Homemade cloth masks became popular amid a shortage of medical protective supplies. Your cloth mask should have two to three layers, be opaque enough to filter particles but allow breathability. WHO recommends people with no Covid-19 symptoms to wear the cloth mask in areas where the coronavirus is widespread and a social distance of at least 1 metre cannot be maintained. Remember to wash your cloth mask in warm water after every use!


You might have seen many health workers wearing the plastic shield. But face shields are not a substitute for masks. They are not effective in preventing droplet spread but can be worn as an added layer of protection with a mask.  

Now that you know which mask to choose, make sure you always keep both your mouth and nose covered. Do not wear a loose mask and wash your hands before and after touching one.

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Disclaimer: editorji does not provide medical advice. The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained in this story are for informational purposes only. No material in this video is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have related to Covid-19.

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