A Simple Guide to Facemasks

Mindfulness of Inhaling, Exhaling and Presence of Others 

The facemask you use matters to other people and yourselves.

You can buy a thin cotton mask or a mask as a fashion statement which provides minimal protection to others and yourself. The difference between a thin cotton or another material and no mask is as thin as the thinness of the material.

Research shows the range of protection of masks manufactured to block the tiny particles of droplets, called aerosols, that come out of our mouth when we breathe, speak, sing or yell, vary a great deal.

  • A thin cotton facemask might offer around 40% – 50% protection.
  • A facemask made up of tightly woven cotton offers around 60-70% protection.
  • A blue coloured surgical mask increases further protection to around 70-80%.
  • A N95 facemask (FFP2, FFP3 – EU equivalent to N95) offers around 95% or more protection.

FFP3 mask offers slightly greater protection than FFP2 and FFP1.

Obviously the higher the percentage, the more you protect others and yourself. These tiny droplets, which can contain Covid-19, and its dangerous mutations, go in both directions.

We can breathe in droplets from others or touch items with droplets on them and then touch our face. If we keep a social distance of 1.5 to 2 metres, the droplets will not pass from person to person and drop to the ground.

A sneeze containing mucus and saliva can travel some metres at 100 kilometres an hour.

Anger on the Streets

We have probably all witnessed verbal abuse and anger on our high street or in the shops around facemasks and social distancing. I have witnessed in my hometown of Totnes arguments taking place when a person refuses to wear a mask in a queue outside a shop. I have heard agitated people telling somebody else to get further away in a shop as the customers attempted to buy similar items.

Voices get raised. Both customers involved in the argument might wear a thin cotton mask. Their self-righteous anger spewing out. This makes another person more vulnerable to catching Covid-19 if one is carrying Covid-19 and vice-verse if the other upset person is a short distance away.

I have seen people arrive on the high street who have forgotten their mask. Rather than buy one facemask or a packet of facemasks, they wrap their scarf around the face, imagining this protects others and themselves from Covid-19, whether they have coronavirus or not.

Using a scarf as a facemask barely offers any protection to anybody – air can move through the scarf and through all the gaps around the scarf into the face. Aerosols can land on another person or one can inhale the aerosols from somebody else.

To put it in dramatic terms. One’s attitude could cost either or both people immense suffering, admission to a Covid-19 ward and their life or offer genuine protection.

SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and its current manifestation as Covid-19, plus the dangerous mutations, can only travel via the droplets from one to another or droplets found on items.

Differences in View in the  Vaccination Boards

I spoke with my local vaccination centre 2 February 2021 and thanked them for their work including contacting the over 70s in the area by text, letter and telephone. I told them my position (No. Not now) and the centre agreed I can contact them if my view changes. The nurse kindly put my response into the computer.

The Vaccine Boards in Germany, France, Sweden, Poland and Austria have advised their respective governments not to use Oxford Astra Zeneca vaccine for over-65s. Italy has recommended not to use Oxford Astra Zeneca for the over 55s.

The EU countries say there is a lack of data on the impact of this vaccine on the over 65s so they cannot recommend the jab to the elderly. These boards state they require the necessary data before their scientists will recommend the jab for the elderly. The UK board gave the go-ahead without requiring the necessary data. One science requires one set of important information and another does not.

The EU leader said the UK government has compromised on ‘safety and efficacy’ safeguards. These countries urge the use of “preferential use of messenger RNA vaccines in older and/or more frail subjects,” such as the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna jabs.

First jabs for the elderly in the UK were made on 9 December 2020. Official figures released on 23 January 2021, showed coronavirus-related deaths in English care homes went up 46% in the previous week – the highest increase since May.

The UK government and the Oxford Astra Zeneca take the opposite view to these six countries and offer the jab for all ages, including the elderly.

On 3 February, 2021, Astra-Zeneca issued a statement that the vaccine may have a ‘substantial’ effect on reducing transmission of the virus. Results of the Oxford study will be formally published for public scrutiny.

If the UK view proves to be true, then this is welcome news for the elderly and knowing the jab reduces transmission and reduces the numbers of infected people, currently more than one million in Britain. Currently, the UK has the highest number of deaths per million population from Covid-19 of all 215 countries, according to Worldometer, who collects daily the data.

If the UK government and Oxford Astra Zeneca have rushed to an unwise judgement, then the over 65s will worry.

There seems to be a lack of international support for the UK approach in various countries.

One health website for the elderly stated: “It is important for older people to have access to the information they need to make an informed choice about receiving the vaccine. It will not be compulsory for anyone to receive the vaccine, and older people have as much right as anyone else to make that decision for themselves.”

We will not have heard the last of varying scientific views about the appropriate use of the jab.

Which body of scientists do we trust?

The primary purpose of a vaccination is to reduce the impact of the symptoms. This is an important step towards recovery for those at risk.

Those who have the jab will have to continue to wear facemasks to minimise the risk of spreading Covid-19 and practice social distancing. If you wish to protect others and yourself from an infection, then keep strictly to social distancing and wear a top quality facemask.

What Facemask to Wear

There are three recommended types of mask to wear.

  • A mask with tightly woven material or double layered which contains a strong cotton washable filter for nose and mouth. Use a well-made organic cotton facemask
  • Surgical mask, preferably two, one on top of the other
  • N95 or FFP2 or FFP3 facemask.

You could consider also a facemask with a metal clip on the nose to help mask be close to the face.

Some have concern about inhaling into the lungs particles from the facemask. Apply use of facemask at appropriate times when plenty of space around you, then lower to chin to breathe without the cloth. When lowered, it is amusingly referred to as a ‘double chin support.’

It is worthwhile engaging in research to find a quality mask out of compassion for others and oneself.

Two to five layers of mask offer more protection. You could consider placing two sheets of folded tissues, fold them over inside your single mask, to cover mouth and nose to increase the layers.

You can experiment to see what feel comfortable for you. I might use two surgical facemasks or a tightly woven cotton facemask with a surgical mask underneath. Both approaches can offer more than 90% protection. I also have a N95 mask.

Those engaged in essential work bringing you into direct contact with people need to ensure to use as high a protection facemask as possible. Your life may depend on it as well as the life of your loved ones. This is not alarmist.

You can wash cotton facemasks daily or every other day if used little, using natural soap, and dry fully before using again. Place the wet mask in a clean tea towel or cloth to dry most of it out, then hang up to dry.

Facemasks are a $multi-million global business. Facemasks cost next to nothing to produce using little in the way of fabric. The profit margins must be phenomenal. The display of the product can come with many claims in terms of protection including N95 mask or a medical mask. False claims about capacity of the mask to protect can come from any factory anywhere, not just in China.

You need to look at reviews. Reviews are not always trustworthy owing to the motives of those who write the reviews, such as promoting the company one works for, or a family member, or for putting down a competitor. You will see an immense variation in prices. It is easy to believe what the manufacturer wants you to believe—the higher the price the better the quality.

Take jeans, for example. Jeans made in the same factory can sell for €10.00 without a label sewn onto the back pocket to buy in a cheap clothing store. You can pay €100.00 for exactly the same jeans with a label on the back pocket sold in a fashion boutique. You pay €90.00 for the label and to walk into the boutique.

Be mindful of what you choose

In terms of facemasks, I put two blue surgical masks on together, use a tightly woven mask with filter or N95 (FFP2). Research says two blue surgical masks give 91% protection. These surgical facemasks are the cheapest but not washable.

Countless disposable, broken and worn-out facemasks have become another environmental problem, along with use the of disposable coffee cups etc due to lockdown and more.

N95 facemasks (KN95 facemasks come from China) can offer more than 95% protection. Use clean hands and ensure the facemask fits neatly to your face so that no breath can escape from above, below or the sides of the facemask. Facemasks work best if flushed against the face. By moving your head from side to side and up and down, you can tell. Be mindful if the facemask keeps slipping when you talk.

If I were the UK Prime Minister, I would issue pass legislation that all masks must have a filter behind a tightly woven mask, or wear two surgical masks or an N95 mask in all public places if in proximity to people. I would order the banning of all masks, offering less than 90% protection to help protect people from the coronavirus.

The Government could provide every citizen with a N95 mask to bring about a major reduction in infected people.

This would bring about a massive reduction infection rates of Covid-19, a massive reduction in sickness, pressure on the NHS, use of ventilators, dying and death.

Top quality facemasks would save countless thousands from Covid-19.

Please examine your facemasks. If thin, then wear two or three. You can support the life of those you have contact with and they can support you.

Mindfulness matters. Empathy matters. Kindness matters.

Stay Well.

PS, Am wearing two blue facemasks in right hand photo, hence it looks like gaps so top one needs to be pressed onto the other one. Facemasks are inconvenient for various reasons. I remind myself using my hand to hold an umbrella on a rainy day is also inconvenient.

I wrote this blog for people in UK and other countries with high transmission of Covid-19. More than 100,000 people have died from the virus in the UK in the past year and currently a million people are infected.

 

 

 

 

 



  • Just one word of caution. I developed a fungal infection on my face last August. My GP thought it had originated from wearing a mask and said she had seen similar cases as well as more than is usual cases of acne. Six months later I still have the infection and am on the list for a dermatology consultation. I follow the rules with regard to mask wearing but not when out in the open air. So masks are essential but don’t overdo it.


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