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How effective is your face shield?

Asthma, Immune | February 19, 2020 | Author: Naturopath

Immune, Asthma

How effective is your face shield?

People are choosing to use facial shields (masks) in an attempt to avoid the latest deadly virus or trying to protect against environmental pollution whilst going about daily life. Wearing facial protective masks has become a common sight around populated areas and on transport – buses, planes and trains. But do they do work and is one better than an other?

Mask are available in many types from cloth material, surgical mask and active carbon respirator masks.

P2 masks (also called N95 respirators) 

P2 masks are the only masks which filter out a meaningful level of air pollution. P2 rated respirators are available with carbon activated filters. Activated carbon, also called activate charcoal, is a form of carbon with small pores able to absorb chemical reactions. 

P2/N95 masks are recommended for health care workers to protect against epidemic viruses.

P2 masks come as disposable masks which filter smoke particles effectively – if warn correctly. This can be difficult for children and people with facial hair. They must form a tight seal around the face continuously. They are the most effective for preventing the damaging health effects from breathing particles in areas where there are bushfires and areas of poor air conditions. P2 masks are advised for people with significant health issues and those who cannot avoid working outdoors in smoke environments. People with significant health concerns include those with existing heart or lung conditions, diabetics or are pregnant. People over 65 may also be vulnerable and children under the age of 14. P2 masks can make it hard to breath and can be hot and uncomfortable.

P1 Masks. These masks offer a low level of dust protection.

Surgical masks

A surgical mask is used health professionals during medical procedures to catch pathogens shed from the wearers mouth and nose. 

They are not designed to protect the wearer from inhaling airborne bacterial or viruses and are thought to be less effective than respirator style masks.

Are surgical masks more effective than P2 masks?

One randomised study among outpatient health care personnel showed no significant difference in the incidence of “laboratory confirmed influenza”.

The effectiveness of any mask is dependant on it being worn correctly on the face. 

Cloth material masks

These are usually low-cost and common in developing countries. They are made of material doubles over and contain elastic loops to attach over ears holding them in place. They are often washable and reusable. The efficiency of these types of masks to filter particles depends on many limitations such as pore size, density and number and shape. The filtering capacity of these masks was found to reduce by 20% after the 4th washing and drying cycle. The filtering efficiency of cloth face masks is low compared to other types of masks .

Cloth masks may help in preventing the spread of infection but they will not filter enough against microscopic dust particles which make bushfire smoke dangerous. They are not designed for air pollution. Cloth masks do not fit snuggly against the face and therefore will result in a lot of leakage.

Avoiding virus spread and air pollution

For people with who have symptoms of an airborne virus 

It is recommended the best action is isolation from the public and participating in personal hygiene practices. This includes thorough washing of hands with soap and water; the use of an alcohol-based hand wash; covering nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing; avoiding close contact with others. These measures are conside the best methods of avoiding spread of contagious viruses and bacteria.

The use of a surgical face mask is recommended when in the same room as another person and when seeking medical advice to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to anyone else.

Help lessen the spread of disease by:

  • Staying home if you are sick (avoid public places)
  • Avoid touching your eyes and nose
  • Let medical practices know you are coming in before attending and wear a snug fitting face sheild/mask
  • Follow good hygiene measure by frequent and thorough hand washing and the use of anti-bacterial hand washes
  • Cover nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing using a disposable tissue or into the crook of your elbow

For people wanting to reduce the effects of bushfire smoke and airborne pollution

  • The advice is to stay indoors with all doors and windows closed
  • Use an air conditioner - switch it to recirculate and add a filter if you can
  • A portable air cleaner with a HEPA filter will be effective in reducing particles
  • Wear a P2 mask 
  • Avoid outside activity when smoke is visible or smelt – including exercise

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Wear your mask correctly

The effectiveness of masks is linked to early, consistent use and correct wearing. Masks should fit properly and seal over the bridge of the nose and mouth with no gaps between mask and face. For males and effective seal can be achieved if clean shaven. Children should wear a child-size mask. P2 masks will become less effective if loaded with smoke/pollution particles from extended use.  Australia’s best online discount chemist


Optical microscopic study of surface morphology and filtering efficiency of face masks

Active Carbon Respiratory Masks as the Adsorbent of Toxic Gases in Ambient Air

N95 Respirators vs Medical Masks for Preventing Influenza Among Health Care Personnel: A Randomized Clinical Trial.

The use of masks and respirators to prevent transmission of influenza: a systematic review of the scientific evidence.

Effectiveness of face masks used to protect Beijing residents against particulate air pollution

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