Basic Personal Protective Equipment Against COVID-19

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Preventive measures, such as getting vaccinated, frequent handwashing and social distancing, can significantly slow the spread of COVID-19.

But how about personal protective equipment? Can it help slow the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19? 

Definitely, yes. Facemasks, face shields and gloves work well, especially if your immune system is weak or you have a higher risk of contracting a severe illness. Putting on a mask provides you with the greatest level of protection possible when you venture into places with many people. However, you must put your PPE on at all times when necessary, and it must fit well and be comfortable.

If you’re wondering how the basic PPE works against COVID-19, here’s an article that discusses just that. Read on.  

How Do the Different Masks Work?

KN95 Masks

A KN95 is a type of respirator mask that meets international standards. It gives more protection than a medical mask because it filters out small and large airborne particles when the wearer inhales.

But be wary when purchasing a KN95 as many counterfeit pieces are being sold that do not meet quality requirements. Purchase only from a reputable PPE shop.

N95 Masks

Like a KN95, an N95 mask is a respirator that must meet quality standards. N95s deliver the highest level of protection and have the same filtering capacity as a KN95. The general public can wear nonsurgical N95s.

Surgical N95s are reserved for healthcare providers. Users in healthcare settings must be trained and pass a fit test prior to using a surgical N95 mask. Like surgical masks, N95s are disposable, but researchers are now testing ways to disinfect and reuse these masks.

Medical Masks

Medical masks are otherwise called surgical masks. These are loosely fitting disposable masks. These masks usually filter out large airborne particles.

To make sure your medical mask is more form-fitting, knot the ear loops where they fasten to the mask. Afterwards, fold and tuck in the extra material beneath the edges.

Cloth Masks

A cloth mask aims to trap airborne respiratory droplets when the wearer talks, coughs or sneezes. It is also a barrier to protect the wearer from breathing in droplets released by others.

The most effective cloth mask consists of multiple tightly woven cotton fabric layers. A mask with multi-layers will prevent more droplets from permeating through your mask or escaping from it. If you wear a gaiter type, make sure it has at least a couple of layers of cloth.

How to Maximise Your Face Mask

The proper use, storage and cleaning of face masks affect the level of protection they give. You can also improve the effectiveness of cloth and medical masks by ensuring they fit well to your face’s contours to stop air leakage around the mask’s edges. This personal protective equipment must fit snugly over the areas of the nose, mouth and chin. You shouldn’t feel air escaping under the mask’s edges. The air entering through the front of the mask when you exhale should feel warm.

Furthermore, choose masks designed with a bendable nose strip because this helps prevent air from leaking out of the top area of the mask.

Multiple masks also provide more protection. Some wear a medical mask underneath their cloth mask. In this case, the cloth mask must press the edges of the medical mask against your face. However, do not add more layers if it impedes your breathing or your vision. Also, never put on another mask with a KN95 or an N95.

When wearing a KN95 or N95, make sure it fits and seals close to your face

A child’s mask must be specifically designed for children to work properly. Make sure the mask fits snugly over the nose, mouth, and chin areas.

How Do Face Shields Work?

A face shield is a plastic curved panel attached to a headband worn over the face. It must fit securely, so there are no gaps between the band and the forehead. The shield should extend beyond the chin.

Because the shield extends down from the forehead, it also protects the eyes, nose and mouth. The face shield’s coverage is ideal because the COVID-19 virus can pass through those points.

Are Face Shields Effective?

A 2004 study found that a face shield provides a protective factor of up to 96% against influenza infused aerosol from 18 inches away. The face shield also mitigates the surface contamination of a respirator by up to 97%.

However, never wear a face shield for regular everyday activities as a substitute for cloth face coverings.

Some choose to wear a face shield when they know they will be in close contact with others for sustained periods. In these instances, it is best to wear a mask underneath the face shield and maintain ideal physical distancing. This safety measure will minimise your risk of infection because face shields have an opening at the bottom.

If a face shield is worn without a mask, it must wrap around the sides of the wearer’s face and extend beneath the chin. Face shields should never be used for newborns or infants.

How Do Gloves Work for Protecting Against COVID-19?

Gloves protect you from being infected of the viruses that are present on surfaces. However, you should wear the right one for the right situations to maximise the protection it provides. Also, the virus can still adhere to latex and other types of glove materials. Hence, if you touch your face, you are potentially exposing yourself to the virus. This makes proper and frequent handwashing still important even if you’re using gloves.

Wearing gloves might give a false sense of security. Washing your hands for at least 20 seconds remains the best defence against the novel coronavirus. But when you run errands to the grocery or venture into other public places, you may not have access to soap and water. In this case, a hand sanitiser or wipe is an excellent substitute.

Proper Glove Usage Is Key

The wrong method of taking off gloves can contaminate your hands when taking off the gloves. For example, after taking off your left glove with your gloved right hand, your left hand should be virus-free. But if you take off the right glove by touching the outer area, you have potentially exposed your left hand to contamination.

What you can do is to reach inside the right glove and peel it away without touching the exterior.

Conclusion

As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to spike worldwide, it is crucial to stay resolute in preventing the further spread of the virus. Getting a vaccination, including a booster shot, continued hand-washing, covering your face whenever you cough and sneeze, avoiding touching your face, keeping your distance and wearing a mask are critical preventive measures against COVID-19.

While wearing a mask is not guaranteed protection from COVID-19, it lowers your risk significantly. A mask can keep germs from infecting other people if you are sick. If you are healthy, a mask can prevent infected respiratory droplets from entering your nose and mouth.

Although the effectiveness of wearing a mask and other PPE cannot be quantified, it is well established that they do provide some degree of protection. On the other hand, not wearing one offers no protection at all.