General, Research, Technology

Protective masks: what you need to know?

If you still do not understand whether you need toin the midst of a raging pandemic, wear masks, sit back. But before you start the story about the proper use of personal protective equipment, it is worth getting to know the enemy better. SARS-CoV-2 is a representative of the coronavirus family, which has two subfamilies and consists of 40 types of viruses that affect the respiratory organs of humans and animals. Some of them are familiar to everyone with ARVI, but others, for example, SARS and CoVID-19, lead to the development of SARS. Recall that one of the main dangers of the coronavirus pandemic is overloading the healthcare system, which may not withstand the influx of seriously ill patients who need to be connected to ventilators. We tell you how not to get infected yourself and not to infect others using protective masks.

New coronavirus pandemic could last longer than we would like


  • 1 Coronavirus size matters
  • 2 Who needs to wear face masks?
  • 3 Which masks protect against coronavirus best?
    • 3.1 1. Powered Air-Purifying Respirator
    • 3.2 2. Full face mask with replaceable cartridge
    • 3.3 3. Half-Mask Respirator FFP3
    • 3.4 4. Half-Mask Respirator FFP2 and FFP1
    • 3.5 5. Three-layer surgical mask
  • 4 Do I need to buy face masks?
  • 5 How to use a face shield?

Coronavirus size matters

Since its inception, SARS-CoV-2 has been presented to scientists andepidemiologists have many surprises. So, our regular readers know that neither the null patient, nor the natural owner of the new coronavirus could be established. Nevertheless, acquaintance with the virus continues and scientists have learned something important: the new coronavirus is large enough when compared with other viruses and microscopic particles. As it turned out, the average size of CoVID-19 is 0.1 microns, which is an advantage for us, since protective masks filter particles from 0.007 microns in size. The picture below clearly shows the size of the new coronavirus relative to the size of red blood cells - blood cells, the most numerous cellular component of the blood - which is 7 microns.

Protective masks filter particles from 0.007 microns in size.
CoVID-19 = 0.1 microns
1 micron = 0.001 mm
1 millimeter = 1,000 microns

Protective masks filter particles from 0 in size.007 microns. The image shows the size of the new coronavirus in comparison with bacteria (0.5 microns), PM 2.5 particles polluting the air (2.5 microns), red blood cells (7 microns) and PM 10 particles (10 microns)

Who needs to wear face masks?

The short answer is everyone!

The answer to this question depends on the situation inwhich you are. And also from the type of your activity. So, if you are not a medical professional, you feel great and every day leave your home, for example, to work, then a protective mask is unlikely to help you get sick. Moreover, as we have already said, in some cases, a protective mask increases the risk of infection with a new coronavirus. However, if you feel unwell and feel bad, then remember about others - leave the house only in case of urgent need and a respirator. In this situation, wearing a mask will preserve the health of other people. But what if you are healthy and you need to enter the room where the infected SARS-CoV-2 are located? Should I wear a mask?

Let's look at the situation again from a pointview of the population: if I am not sick, I don’t put on a mask; it’s difficult to understand that a person is sick, and it’s well known that people can get sick without symptoms. Hence the conclusion - you cannot understand whether you are sick or not. This means that any person who feels well can be contagious. If you look at shots from China, Italy and Spain, all people wear masks. Why?! The main answer is responsibility. If you don’t wear a mask, then I don’t. And the guy who was sick, seeing us without masks, did not put on a mask. As a result, we all became infected. It’s easiest for everyone to wear masks, and not think that the neighbor is sick or healthy ... He put on a mask or not.

Which masks protect against coronavirus best? 1. Powered Air-Purifying Respirator

As an employee of a large company manufacturing all types of protective masks writes on Twitter, the best protection can provide PAPR (Powered Air-Purifying Respirator). This respirator filters the incoming air througha huge number of indicators, including viruses, toxic gases and bacteria. The necessary pressure is supported by an electric motor that delivers clean air.

The most reliable respirator looks like this

2. Full face mask with replaceable cartridge

In second place is full face mask with replaceable cartridges. Such a mask allows you to completely protect your face from virus particles on the mucous membrane of the eye, and the nose and mouth are protected by a correctly selected cartridge.

A mask that protects the whole face

3. Half-Mask Respirator FFP3

In third place from all subsequentmasks are located that do not protect the face completely, so that the eyes remain open for virus particles to enter. However, the highest level of protection among half-face masks that can completely filter out 0.7 micron coronavirus is respirator "FFP3". This type of protective respirator is recommended for use in medical institutions.

It looks like a respirator used in medical facilities

4. Half-Mask Respirator FFP2 and FFP1

It should be noted that all subsequent respirators FFP2 (medium level of protection) and FFP1 (low level of protection) not as effective as FFP3. These respirators can already pass the coronavirus, however, the question is the number of viral particles. So, masks with a low level of protection will miss more CoVID-19 particles. BUT! Most viral particles remain on the respirator - thereby protecting the airways.

If you have to choose between FFP1 and FFP2, then it is better to choose the second option

5. Three-layer surgical mask

According to a study published in Particles and Fiber Toxicology, even the most ordinary surgical masks for the face, filter particles starting with a size of 0.007 microns. Despite the fact that the study was devoted to the problem of air pollution in China, the results also mean that the simplest surgical masks are able to filter out up to 60% of tiny particles, including coronavirus. Look at the graph below: in front of you are the particle size and respirators that filter the air entering the respiratory tract.

The graph shows the effectiveness of different types of respirators in filtering harmful and pathogenic particles.

Since most of the inhabitants of the planet are not doctors, as an auxiliary protection when communicating with a person infected with a new coronavirus, an ordinary surgical mask is quite suitable.

Do I need to buy face masks?

No. Before you go to the nearest pharmacy in search of protective masks, think about the people to whom they really can save lives. This primarily concerns doctors and medical professionals. The fact is that the incubation period of a new coronavirus can last from 5 to 24 days, and doctors examine a huge number of patients every day. The influx of patients causes a shortage of protective respirators, which increases the risk of infection for health workers. Therefore, if you have the opportunity to comply with quarantine and go out as rarely as possible - do so. No need to purchase protective masks. In the end, a mask that is effective against tiny particles getting into the airways can be done on its own.

To stay abreast of the latest scientific discoveries in the field of virology and medicine, subscribe to our channel in Google News.

No matter how much skeptics doubt it, a simple woolen scarf filters out up to 28% of harmful and pathogenic particles

As the results of the study showedpolluted air in China, even an ordinary wool scarf holds up to 28% of harmful particles larger than 0.007 microns. This means that if you have to get in touch with a sick person, a home-made cotton-gauze dressing will reduce the chance of contracting SARS-CoV-2 by at least 30%. And this is better than nothing.

What World Health Organization recommendations do you follow and why? Share the answer with the participants of our Telegram chat and in the comments to this article.

How to use a protective mask?

And again - before you go for cotton and gauze - we recall that simple surgical masks (like any home-made masks) can be applied only once. The time of use of the respirator should not exceed 2 hours. It is impossible to erase previously used masks, any respirator intended for single use. Also do not forget about precautions -wash your hands before putting on the mask, before removing it and after you have disposed of it. A new coronavirus can be on the surfaces of plastic and metal objects for up to three days and up to 12 hours on clothes, so proper disposal of the mask in a garbage container with a closed lid will help others not get sick. Well, we remind you that following the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO) and observing quarantine will help not only you, but also many other people to maintain their life and health.