'Triple-layer surgical facemasks effective'

Leading doctors have said that triple-layer surgical facemasks are presently the most effective for day-to-day use of general public, who don’t deal with Covid-19 positive patients directly. However, most of the other reusable masks, if washed and dried in a proper way, can also be utilized by this section of people, the medical experts have said.

Speaking with Greater Kashmir, Dr Naveed Nazir Shah, Head of Pulmonary Medicine at Chest Disease Hospital of GMC Srinagar said that the triple-layer surgical mask “can be used from six to eight hours” after which it has to be “ideally discarded”.

“This is the best and the cheapest option of facemasks available as of now. The triple layer surgical mask is affordable and has a usage life of 6 to 8 hours,” Dr Shah said.

Commenting on the recent World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendation that valve-fitted masks were not appropriate to prevent spread of coronavirus, Dr Shah said: “One who wears a valve-fitted mask might safeguard themselves from contracting the virus but puts others at risk of getting infected. The valve is a big enough opening for infection to spread. There is a huge threat of infection if the person wearing the valve fitted mask is Covid-19 positive,” Dr Shah said.

Dr Shah said all other reusable masks “if washed and dried properly” can also be used by people not “directly dealing with Covid-19 positive persons”.

As per experts, “facemasks are proven to be most effective ways to prevent transmission of the virus”.

“Masks should cover both mouth and nose to be effective,” the medical experts have said.

Proper way to wear a mask:

Doctors say N-95 mask must be worn to “snug the mask edges on your face and nose”, although sometimes it is difficult.

N95 mask should fit the face and nose and there should be no gap between mask edge and your skin, so that no particles should go in around the mask edges. Same is not true for surgical masks.

As per the experts, it is advisable that general public wear surgical mask while healthcare wear N95 masks.This advice is based on need and demand policy.

“If public were advised to wear N95 mask, it is not possible to meet the demand,” says guidelines issued by leading medical experts.

Difficulties in wearing a mask:

As per doctors, N95 masks are difficult to keep wearing as exhalation or breathing out generates some heat and pressure within the mask and the air makes your face warm and sweaty. Many people cannot tolerate N95 masks because of this.

To circumvent this, N95 masks with ‘exhalation valves are available. “However, they have an advantage and a disadvantage. Advantage of an exhalation valve is that it is easier to exhale and tolerance is better and face does not become warm and sweaty,” say medical experts.

The disadvantage is that once a person, who wears N95 mask with exhalation valve, breathes out, the exhaled air can throw virus particles into the atmosphere through the valve. So, with this mask you get protected but do not protect others. Such masks break the rule.

“Generally, my mask protects you and your mask protects me from getting infected,” should be the way to go about it. So, experts have advised that N95 masks with exhalation valves should be discouraged in a pandemic.