LIFE HACKS: It's All about the fit: Tips for living with masking regulations – Saltwire

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Based on national guidelines, Nova Scotia Health, within the last six weeks, has updated its recommendations for masking.
In a recent press conference, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Robert Strang says they are now recommending a properly fitting, three-layered non-medical mask or cloth mask, or a properly fitted medical mask.
“Regardless of what mask you choose, it needs to be three-ply. The fit and wearing are equally as important as the type,” says Dr. Strang.
Although the masking requirements are not new, the idea of the three-ply may be for some, especially given that most cloth masks may be only two-ply.

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Nancy O’Halloran, owner of Kentville, N.S.-based BraveHeart First Aid — which sells first-aid equipment across Canada, has weighed in with some important updated mask information.
First, O’Halloran echoes what Dr. Strang has said.
“It’s important to note we have not changed any of our information about masking, it’s just that COVID is now faster spread,” she says. “Nothing in the older information has changed with regard to masking, it’s just that it is being suggested that we wear better protection.”
The stronger the COVID, the more protection we need, she notes.
 

Get the Fit Right

Everybody’s mask needs to fit them. If it doesn’t fit, you won’t be getting the best protection, explains O’Halloran. Someone may buy an N-95 mask, but not wear it properly, so there is no added advantage to wearing one.
“It’s all about the fit,” she says.
There should be no gaps or loose spaces when you wear a mask. We need to cut out the angles of gaps. You should not be able to blow out a candle. If you are in a compromised place, where the potential to catch COVID is high, then it is even more important to make sure it fits snugly, says O’Halloran.
Be careful if you cross or twist the straps of the mask, because with some face shapes, this can cause gaps to occur on the cheeks, she says.
Everyone’s face, nose, ears are shaped differently. Whatever mask we choose, needs to fit us the best. Find what suits you the best. Choose the best quality for the best fit that suits you, she says.

O’Halloran says to think about wearing a mask like getting dressed for the weather.
For example, if it is raining, you would probably put on a raincoat as this would provide you with better protection than wearing a cotton coat.
Masks are like this. Some provide better protection, while others are also water resistant. The disposable or medical masks often have this water-resistant repellant at the front.
What kind of protection do you need that day?

 

Know your Situation

We should consider having different masks for different locations or situations, she adds.
For example, O’Halloran says that when she goes to the grocery store, she usually wears a three-ply cloth mask, rather than an N-95, as she mostly stays by herself while shopping.
But, with medical appointments, she would pick a mask that has a higher filtration, like KN-95 or N-95.
Regardless, we need to ensure the mask is properly fitting, for you may think that the situation you are in does not have a high concentration of COVID, but it could, she says.
“The spread is so fast that we could get it somewhere we might not think we could get it,” says O’Halloran.

When you are at risk, you should level up your mask, says O’Halloran.
This could be a compromised condition if you are ill, or because you are in a compromised, high-risk situation.

“Three-ply is not the same as three layers. These words are often mistaken,” she says.
Three-ply material is made from a melt-blown material placed between non-woven fabric. In contrast, three layers usually means material or fibre, and is homemade.
You also need to know what the layers are made from, she says. A ply can be made from any material, so factory plies might be thinner than three or four layers of cotton you are sewing together.
When you buy a disposable three-ply mask, or a washable one, sometimes they have been made by different materials. You need to take note of this, she says.
The three-ply mask, like the disposable ones, often have a non-woven fabric. This allows you to breathe cleaner air. These are thinner and offer more protection than the cloth masks.
A three-ply nonsurgical or surgical disposable mask will always offer more protection than a homemade three layer one, she says.
There is a four-ply medical grade mask that adds even extra filtration and protection. They have a high fluid resistance.
Some people are making three-layer with the filter in the middle. It’s important if they do that not just to sew that in, but to really make sure the mask fits. That’s the most important component, she says.

Cloth masks don’t have this ability to filter particles. Some masks have polypropylene which keeps droplet and germs out more. Level 3 masks usually have this ability.
Know what is in your mask and whether it was tested.
Again, she stresses, the fit of the mask is what is most important.

Originally, N-95 meant that it was NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety) certified in the United States to be a proper mask. This is similar to our CSA approval in Canada, she explains. The 95 means that it has a 95 per cent filtration rate.
The KN-95 also has 95 per cent filtration. The K originally stood for Korean, but now, O’Halloran says many other countries are making similar masks.
There is not a huge difference between these in terms of safety, says O’Halloran.
To offer the best protection with these masks, they should have the straps around the back of the head. Now, however, because of comfort, they are being made with ear loops. This means we are not getting the same tight fit.
“Times are changing, and we are changing how we are making masks, and are now considering comfort. However, we don’t want to compromise fit,” she says.

There is no proper answer as to how long a person should wear a mask because everyone is so different. It depends on the oil level of the skin, sweat, beard, make up, what environment you are in.
Unless you work in health care, they can be worn until they look or feel dirty, she says.
How long you wear the mask, where you wear the mask, what environment you wear the mask in and your personal hygiene all make a difference of how long the mask is going to last. This can be different for everyone, she says.

If you still have a two-ply cloth mask left over from the first of COVID, she doesn’t recommend rebuilding them and adding more material layers to them. They are usually only good for 40 to 50 washes, anyway, as the material gets thinner. It’s time to get new ones, she says.

To help keep them clean, use the ear loops to take them off, and don’t touch the front of the masks.
After we take it off, we should put it in a paper bag, and not stuffing them into our purses or pockets as we are compromising the mask this way.
Wash your hands before and after taking off the mask, says O’Halloran. If you are somewhere and then rip off your mask without washing your hands first, you have now made that mask dirty by using dirty hands, she says.
How we handle our mask makes a difference of when we put it back on the next time, she says.

You don’t need to double up your masks if you are wearing a KN-95 or an N-95 mask. You could wear a disposable mask with a cloth mask over that if you were somewhere compromised. This would keep the disposable mask cleaner, where the cloth mask can be washed.
There has been some research that shows that if you do double up on your masks, the disposable one should go on first, she says.
If your mask has poor filtration, doubling up can help. There is nothing wrong with wearing two, just make sure you have them on in the right order, she says.

Some masks have components in them that your body doesn’t agree with, so you can have an allergy to it. Find out what is in the mask to see what doesn’t suit us.
Sometimes with cloth masks, the detergent on the material can cause a reaction to the skin. Instead, consider using dish soap and hot water, she suggests.

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