Medical masks: These are also in short supply and should be used only by medical workers. Sometimes called surgical masks or procedure masks, these masks are those rectangular shaped coverings (often pleated) that come with elastic ear loops. Medical masks are made of a paper-like nonwoven material and are often given to a coughing patient waiting to see a doctor. Compared to the face mask, a medical mask filters about 60 to 80 percent of particles and, according to the Food and Drug Administration, mostly blocks large-particle droplets, splashes, sprays or splatter that may contain germs.
N95 respirator masks: These masks fit tightly to the face and have the highest filtration efficiency, blocking 95 percent of particles of 0.3 microns or larger. An N95 mask protects medical workers who come into contact with high doses of the virus while visiting and carrying out medical procedures on multiple patients. The rest of us don’t need that level of protection, so these masks should be reserved for health care workers only. To learn more about how these masks work, check out this video animation from the Arizona State University Risk Innovation Lab.
What if my child refuses to wear a mask?
Masks should not be worn by children under 2 years of age. But older children often are vectors of contagious illnesses, so teaching them to wear a mask is a good idea. Teaching a child to wear a mask, however, is easier said than done. Many children are frightened of masks or just don’t like them. Keep working on it. You can try to win a child over with fun characters on the mask, rewards or games. You can also convince them by setting the example yourself (the same concept works when your children see you eat vegetables.) Try turning the mask into a craft project that they can wear proudly.
Mask or no mask, children should never go with you to the grocery store or to run essential errands during the pandemic. Community playgrounds are closed (or should be), so outdoor play should be confined to the back yard. If your children need to play in a public space, go somewhere you can easily keep your distance from other people, like an empty soccer field or a sparsely populated hiking trail so that their refusal to wear a mask doesn’t affect other people.
Homemade fabric masks: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends we cover our faces with a scarf or homemade fabric mask when we are in public. The effectiveness of homemade masks varies depending on the fabric used, the style and the fit.