Wear a Mask – But Not the One with a Valve!

Amidst the ongoing coronavirus crisis, wearing masks in public has become widely common. But, here’s the catch – not all masks are created equal. You can wear any mask you like as long as it doesn’t have a valve in it.

Why?

A mask valve is a tiny plastic piece attached to the fabric of some masks and N95 respirators. This one way valve closes whenever you breathe, preventing pathogens from getting through. And, opens when you breathe out, expelling air from the mask. These respirator masks are not as effective as other masks designed for medical purposes. They are commonly used to prevent pathogens, minimize humidity, heat and moisture inside the mask; however, they do not block the transmission of COVID-19.

While these masks with respiratory valves are effective at protecting the wearer from pollution and pathogens, they do not protect others as they can release large respiratory droplets in the air. These valves breathe out unfiltered particles, which can potentially spread viral particles to others, including droplets that might contain coronavirus. Even the Government of India does not recommend hospitals use N95 respirators that have valves, because the exhalation valve allows unfiltered exhaled air to escape into the sterile field.

Thus, even if you are living in an area that hasn’t really banned respiratory masks with valve, should you continue wearing them? The answer is probably not. You might be wearing a mask that can potentially protect you from pathogens and pollutions, but it surely is putting other people at risk.

The bottom line - If you are keen on keeping the air as virus-free as possible, an N95 mask with a valve might not the best option. It doesn’t protect YOU from ME, and thus, doesn’t function in the current COVID environment – neither in the healthcare sector nor in the community.

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