In the recent environment with Covid-19 are you confused about whether or not to wear a face mask? Do you wonder if it is really going to help you and your loved ones in this dire time of need? We see the First Responders wearing these when they are caring for the patients in the hospitals. These workers are certainly exposed to elevated levels of the virus in a hospital setting housing several sick covid-19 and other patients. How do we keep these professionals healthy and what can you do to protect yourself and your family?

What is a Micron?

We figured it would be good to talk about science for a moment. A micron is a form measurement used by scientists to determine the size of particles, such as mold spores, bacteria, viruses and more. The scientists use this verbage as an alternative to saying its really really small or in fact it might be .0000005 inches in diameter. Later on in the article we will give you a physical representation of the size, but for now let’s just remember that it is just a method of measurement.

A woman shows a face mask she made in a workshop, during the coronavirus outbreak, in Bangkok, Thailand March 9, 2020. Picture taken March 9, 2020. REUTERS/Chalinee Thirasupa

So, let’s begin by talking a little bit more about face masks and dwell on each of these briefly. Each mask is designed to efficiently protect an individual when they are performing a particular task. In construction, a worker may wear a mask when sanding wood, drywall, or other materials. It is common to properly match a type of mask with a certain task. The size of a particle usually designates the proper mask you should wear when attempting to protect yourself or others. For example a paper mask will not prevent you from experiencing the strong odor created when painting, varnishing, or using chemicals with a strong odor.

You’ve seen surgical masks on people in the stores and on the TV lately. Since surgical masks are running low, the government has recommended making a face mask out of fabric. This is a basic face mask or covering that may help keep dust and particles from entering the respiratory track. Keep in mind though, this is just a covering. It will protect you from dispersing spit and droplets when sneezing or coughing in areas where other people are present. In a hospital setting surgical masks are used to prevent doctors from breathing on their patients during surgery, and ultimately infecting the patient with bacteria. With the recent surge on these masks, you will notice that Amazon has a 1-2 month delivery time.

Many people have now heard of the N-95 mask on the news. These masks come in several different forms. Some have a respiratory valve in the front while others just look pure white. The mask has an efficiency of filtering out particles of 3-100 microns and larger. This is done by weaving the fabric tighter to allow less particles to enter the respiratory system. Often you will find a gardener, factory worker, or even a construction worker wearing these masks when they performing certain trigger tasks.

A more aggressive mask can be seen on firefighters to prevent smoke inhalation and also some factory workers using chemicals. This type of full face mask protects the respiratory system and your eyes against odors, particles, smoke and chemicals. When the need for protection is needed this type of mask is one of the best to use. Depending on the type of filtration required filters or filtered air can be used to supply the worker with clean and safe air to breathe.

Most importantly a mask is only as good as the person who knows how to use it properly and keep it as clean as possible. By now you have seen photos of people across the globe wearing masks over their mouths, but not over their noses. This method is only half as effective as wearing the mask over your whole face. People with facial hair are not nearly as safe when wearing a mask. The ability for the mask to properly seal or seat against the skin has been compromised. In order to properly wear a mask, you should consider a few things:

1. Is this the right size mask for you?
2. What type of protection are you looking for in the mask?
3. Does the mask properly fit your face?
4. When you exhale, where does exhaust from around the mask? You may need to adjust it.

The TRUTH. . each mask is ineffective at blocking the virus itself due to the actual size of a virus. The dot (period) at the end of this sentence is 650 microns and the size of a virus is approximately .0005 microns. With this enormous difference between the ability of different filters and the size of a virus we are almost guaranteed to be exposed to the virus if you are near a person that has covid-19 or the flu. If you begin to use items that the other person has touched, then the chance of exposure goes up exponentially. The safest way to protect yourself from the covid-19 virus is to:

1. Keep fresh air moving in and out of you home.
2. If you have been in an area of exposure, try to leave shoes outside and disinfect prior to entering your home.
3. Clean surfaces with in and outside your home.
4. Wash hands thoroughly per CDC standards.
5. Encourage those around you to also take these steps.

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