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We have received more than 1,000 questions about masks from Canadians, and some questions show that many of you are confused about wearing them.
With the country reopened, and Canada Public health officials now recommend the use of masks in public, we bring your most common or curious questions to experts.
Here’s what you want to know about masks.
What is the point of wearing a non-medical mask?
Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam said the mask can “add a layer of protection” in situations where physical distance is not possible, but that protection is only for those around you.
When you breathe, cough, sneeze or laugh, drops come out of your mouth and nose.
WATCH | Theresa Tam explains her latest recommendations about using masks:
“If you wear a mask, you may notice that after a while it becomes moist, so that the moisture in your breath stays behind,” said Colin Furness, an infection control epidemiologist and assistant professor at the University of Toronto.
The hope is that the mask stops some of your droplets from reaching the air – and can stop them from polluting the surface and humans.
But Furness warned that there was no comprehensive study of the efficacy of fabric masks, and they were “not a guarantee of anything.”
If a cloth mask can stop goods coming out, can they stop goods from entering?
“Maybe a little. Maybe not,” Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist and researcher based at the Toronto General Hospital.
“We don’t really know,” he said. “This might slightly reduce one’s risk [of exposure], but I can’t look you in the eye and tell you what it is and how much. “
Furness agrees. He said the mask might help “a little … but his research was very thin,” especially considering all kinds of materials that people use to make masks.
“There are temptations and risks of feeling safer when wearing your mask,” Furness said. “But you don’t. There’s no substitute for physical distance.”
Are there better or worse materials for cloth masks?
Based on Canadian Health, non-medical face masks or face masks must be made of at least two layers of fabric from tightly woven material, such as cotton or linen.
Knitting materials – such as the type used in most T-shirts – can be stretched, and small holes open in the knitting. That is why woven fabrics are considered more effective.
Masks must allow easy breathing; feel comfortable and don’t need frequent adjustments; and large enough to cover the nose and mouth without gaping, according to Health Canada.
Canada’s deputy health minister, Howard Njoo, said that a simple way to find out if your mask is thick enough is to use what he calls “the window test.”
“If you can hold the mask material to the window – hopefully, with sunlight outside – and it’s opaque and opaque enough, at least it will do the work in a general sense,” he said.
A 2013 study in the journal Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness found tea towels have the best screening efficiency. The same study shows cotton works better than silk or linen.
WATCH | Can cloth masks protect you from COVID-19? Two doctors weigh:
More recent research by researchers in the United States found a tightly woven cotton lining with two layers of polyester-based chiffon, cotton-polyester or silk flannel works well.
Difficult to comment on ability [cloth] filtered masks, “because unlike medical masks, homemade masks don’t require standard approval,” said John Granton, an intensive care doctor at Toronto General Hospital and head of the respirology division at Mount Sinai Hospital and the University Health Network.
Should I use a filter on my clothing mask?
Health Canada says add filters to your home-made cloth mask, “such as paper towels or disposable coffee filters, “can provide” increased benefits. ”
But Njoo said that people had to be very careful in making filters from materials they found in their homes.
“Certain materials and filters [may be] infused with chemicals, “Njoo said.” That can be a risk for the wearer because they can breathe toxic substances. “
He said the general public should not be “too complicated” with filters for now. Innovators and scientists are likely to come up with different recommendations, he said.
Steve Theriault, a virus expert specializing in infectious diseases, said that just because something in your home is called a “filter”, that doesn’t mean it will filter out viruses.
“I understand why people talk about coffee filters because they see it filtering their coffee, right?” said Theriault, CEO and chief science officer of Cytophage, a biotech company based in Winnipeg.
“But [with] viruses, there are millions and millions at the tip of the pen. “
I have facial hair. Do I have to shave for my mask to be effective?
If you have a medical mask, like N95, has a seal that is not obstructed by facial hair very important.
But cloth masks, Furness said, don’t make the same seal – so whether you have facial hair or not is actually not a problem.
WATCH | WHO guidelines on the correct way to wear a mask:
“If you have a beard, it won’t be a problem either. Nobody pretends to have a seal there,” he said.
Bogoch said the goal with a cloth mask is to reduce the amount of virus that is shed from people to the area around them.
“Beard versus no beard, I won’t sweat,” Bogoch said.
What if I have to sneeze or cough when wearing a mask?
In short: Do it to your mask – and to the curve of your arm. The whole purpose of the mask is to try and stop a few drops coming out of your mouth and nose.
After sneezing or coughing into a mask, you have to “exchange it for another mask,” Furness said.
You can also use a tissue or tissue under your mask, he said. Don’t forget to wash or clean your hands afterwards.
WATCH | Hiding mistakes you might make, and how to avoid them:
So why do people hesitate to cough or sneeze into their masks?
People who take off their masks to sneeze or cough are usually people who think they exist to protect themselves, Furness said. Not this one.
How do I stop my glasses from getting foggy when I wear a mask?
If your glasses are foggy or foggy, this is a sign that your mask might not be right.
When warm breath comes out of the mask and lands on your glasses, it creates condensation or mist.
“Making a good seal on the bridge of your nose is the key,” said Dr. Jason Cyr from Humber River Hospital in Toronto.
“You can do this by having a comfortable mask that sticks to the base of your nose properly or by sticking tape to hold it,” he said.
“You can also apply some form of anti-fog on your lens.”
You can also try this trick recommended by British surgeons. A paper published in a medical journal History of the Royal College of Surgeons of England say washing your glasses with soap and water and letting it dry can prevent lens fog when wearing a mask.
Is there a danger to wearing a mask?
Actually there can be.
If people use the mask for a long time without cleaning it properly, Furness said, bacterial biofilms can accumulate in the outer layer of your mask.
“If 30 million Canadians wear cloth masks all day, you will see a real surge in bacterial lung infections in a month or more,” he said. “Especially because many people who use it are often immunocompromised.
“Think about it: our bodies are not designed to have a dirty cloth in front of our mouths all day long.”
Furness said you should keep washing the mask in your washing machine after every use. He also recommends boiling it occasionally to kill bacteria.
The big risk with face masks is self-contamination – that is, if you adjust your mask with dirty hands.
The experts we spoke with said that good hand hygiene and not touching your face is the key when wearing a mask, especially when using it.
Should we wear glasses or face shields too?
While it is possible to get COVID-19 through someone’s eyes, experts say you might be able to skip glasses or face shields for normal daily activities.
“For the average person, [wearing] masks make sense, “said Zain Chagla, a doctor of infectious diseases at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton and a professor of medicine at McMaster University.
He said it would be “very difficult” for droplets to infect someone’s eyes during ordinary exposure in public, especially if they maintain physical distance.
When eye contamination does occur, Chagla said, it is more likely because someone touches their eyes with their hands.
“Realistically, hand hygiene is the biggest part of preventing ocular transmission,” he said.
Mark Downing, a doctor of infectious diseases at the St. Health Center Joseph, said that the risk of eye contamination in public “is very low.” He said wearing a mask while physical distance was “far more useful” than glasses or face shields to protect yourself and others around you.
He warned that face shields are not substitutes for masks, because face shields “have gaps where droplet particles can enter.”
And, of course, health workers are highly trained to use personal protective equipment so that they do not pollute themselves in the process.
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