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Ahhh….summer. We hear the word, and our mind takes us to a relaxing vacation spot. Normally this time of year we'd be focused on sunshine and fruity drinks with a cute umbrella. Instead we’re in our pajamas eating dinner out of a take-out box. We interrupt Netflix with a news flash that will make you clutch your pearls. Yes, there really is a face mask mandate. In a matter of weeks face masks went from being called unnecessary to being called mandatory. Information is changing fast enough to give us whiplash. Unless excluded, the CDC now recommends cloth face masks be worn by the general public. Officials stress that masks should be in addition to all the other measures currently recommended for COVID-19 prevention. While wearing a mask won’t necessarily prevent you from getting sick, it can reduce spreading by those who are infected but have no symptoms. Bottom line, unless you plan to be a hermit, you’ll be needing a mask.
In the fog about face masks? Most people are! The science defining what makes a good cloth face mask is coming in as slow as molasses, making it difficult to know our priorities when searching for the right mask. We know that no mask is 100% effective at eliminating viral transmission. But testing suggests that both disposable and cloth masks can dramatically reduce transmission by reducing air exchange between people. Even bandanas and scarves can provide some protection, but
Cabana 5 Piece Reversible Mask Set
with face mask lanyard.
effectiveness of any face covering varies depending on a multitude of factors; Fit, material, number of layers, face shape, facial hair. Even sweat and humidity.
The best mask is the one you can tolerate wearing. Yes, protection is the obvious priority, but you also want something comfortable enough to actually wear. The challenge is to find the sweet spot.
1 - Protection - Here's the deal. We wear a face mask more to protect others than to protect ourselves. In this case, it's not about us. The mask is simply a barrier to help prevent respiratory droplets from traveling when we cough or sneeze. In theory, each person’s molecules are trapped behind their own mask. I’m protecting you, and you’re protecting me. Gaps from a poor fit can significantly decrease protection because air will take the path of least resistance and leak at the edges. So proper fit will prevent particles from going around the mask. The material should also help block particles from moving in and out through the surface of the mask. Fabrics with a dense weave and multiple layers are most protective.
2 - Comfort- If you can’t breathe well through a mask, you’re not going to want to wear it for very long. Look for a mask you can wear for a period of time without feeling the need to frequently adjust or remove it. Unfortunately, breathability and level of protection tend to go in opposite directions.
Pomchies Face Masks come in a 2 piece coordinating set. Choose from prints and solids. Made from soft sun protectant swimwear fabric. 82% Nylon 18% Spandex. UPF 50. So comfortable!
3 - Durability - Choose a mask that can stand up to the wear and tear of daily use and laundering. The CDC says you can wash your mask with your regular laundry using the warmest water appropriate for the fabric.
4 - Style - Of course you should never choose a mask based entirely on aesthetics, but seriously, a mask is covering up some substantial facial real estate so who wants to wear an ugly mask? A cute leopard print can help make it all a little more tolerable.
Disposable or Reusable? Depending on the material used, surgical masks and reusable masks can be equally effective. But if you're worried about the number of disposable masks ending up in landfills, you should consider a cloth reusable mask. Just imagine the volume of single-use personal protection equipment used in a day and how that affects the environment. In a video shared online, surgical masks and gloves can be seen strewn along the ocean floor of the Mediterranean sea. If a disposable mask is your only option, of course you should wear it, but a reusable mask is a better long-term solution.
N95 - All FDA-cleared N95 masks are labeled as "single-use" and considered disposable. When used correctly this medical grade mask can filter at least 95% of small airborne particles. But while they are considered to be the Holy Grail of face masks, they are uncomfortable to wear for long periods of time. Plus, they remain in short supply and thus should be conserved for people in healthcare.
Surgical masks - These disposable masks are usually blue rectangular pleated strips that fit loosely across your nose and mouth. Surgical masks shield against large droplets that can come from a sick person's cough or sneeze, but they can't block the tiny particles that may carry COVID-19. It becomes less effective after wearing and ideally should be thrown away after one use.
Reusable cloth masks, like this "Vera Bradley Seahorse Of Course Face Mask," should look pretty familiar to you. This is the type of mask the CDC recommends for the general public. But not all cloth masks are created equal. Researchers say it’s more about the quality of fabric than the type of fabric. High quality fabrics have a tighter weave and do a better job of blocking particles. And, natural fibers filter better than synthetics. Multiple layers are more effective than single
layers. Lighter colors reflect sunlight, and darker colors absorb heat which can make you hotter. When it comes to mask choosing a breathable fabric is mission critical.
Exhaled air is at body temperature, about 98 degrees. If a mask has poor air flow, the heat gets trapped behind the mask and can cause overheating on a humid day. Are your glasses fogging up? It's because warm air is escaping through the top of your mask. Try a mask with a flexible metal nose bridge. It helps mold your mask to your face for snug fit. Try washing your glasses in soap and water, then let them air dry. The soap leaves a protective film on the lens that helps prevent fogging. You can also purchase a commercial anti-fog spray or anti-fog wipes.
What do you do with your mask when you want to slip it on and off during the day? Shove it in your handbag or in a pocket? A mask lanyard is a lightweight practical accessory to help keep track of your mask. Attach the lanyard clips to the sides of your face mask. When you take it off, your mask hangs comfortably around your neck, out of the way but still handy. Face Mask Lanyard - $3.99
If you want a face mask with greater protection choose a mask that can accommodate a carbon filter. A series of layers will provide more places for virus particles to get stuck. Unlike adding more and more layers, a filter makes it easier to breathe and can help prevent overheating. Filters are particularly helpful if a mask is made from a loosely woven fabric with very little resistance to air flow. Filters need to be changed after 16-24 hours of use or if they become damp. Additional replacement filters are sold separately.
|Snoozies Masks are multi-layered with a filter pocket, nose bridge, and adjustable ear straps. Comes in a pouch containing a mask and four PM 2.5 carbon filters. Adults & Youth | Prints & Solids|
Leaving Home? Know Your W's.
At some point we all have to leave our homes and venture into public places. The use of a cloth face mask is particularly important in settings where social distancing is difficult to maintain. But don’t let wearing a face mask give you a false sense of security. A mask can’t provide 100% protection, but it can be very effective when combined with hand washing and social distancing. If the thought of breathing through 3 layers of fabric on a humid day gives you "resting mask face", go for a single layer option. You just need to find a mask that strikes a balance between comfort and safety. If your mask isn’t comfortable you won’t wear it for long.
Face masks are a part of everyday life for now. It's an inconvenience for all of us, but think of it as a little self-sacrifice to help protect our healthcare workers or maybe someone's grandma. But being responsible doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your style. Mask are now functional and fashionable. Staying safe and keeping others healthy never looked so good.
Just be you