Abandoning the mask so soon? Think again.

Is taking shared public transport during the flu season becoming a ‘gut check’ moment for you? The woman next to you was coughing. The man behind her was sneezing. Somebody who needed a napkin didn’t bother using it. The pandemic introduced us to face covers, but now the larger question that emerges is whether to make masks a lifestyle choice, even in the post-pandemic context. Let’s delve deeper and examine the pros and cons of a mask-wearing lifestyle.

The mask-wearing culture around the world

Even before the pandemic, people in several East-Asian countries wore masks as common courtesy to others when they felt they were coming down with something. The Japanese wear masks when feeling sick as a courtesy to block sneezes from spreading to other people. Japanese women mask their faces on days when they don’t have time to put on makeup. Philippine motorcycle riders wear masks to deflect vehicular exhausts in heavy traffic. In Taiwan, citizens say masks keep their faces warm in the winter and offer a sense of protection from air pollution, including any airborne germs. A good quality mask like a BIS certified FFP2 S one, not only provides the wearer with a physical barrier against germs and prevents them from exhaling potentially infectious droplets into the atmosphere and onto others, but it also offers protection from particulate pollutants in the air from easily entering your airways.

The stake of masks in India’s lifestyle:

Experts say India holds 35 of the 50 most polluted cities on Earth, where toxic air kills more than one million people each year (look at cities such as Delhi NCR, Mumbai, Bangalore, and Kolkata). While we developed a habit of wearing a mask every time we stepped outside due to the pandemic, we need to continue practicing the same as masks act as a physical barrier against pollutant particles entering your system; which could trigger irritation and cough in your respiratory tract.

Face covers are essential to people at construction sites and in factories – which only goes to prove the myriad applications of a mask beyond the pandemic. India has a high rate of labor-intensive jobs with a substandard work environment like textile factories. To combat the ill-health occupational hazards of these working conditions which expose workers to dust and particulates, wearing correct face-covering like N95 (or FFP2 S which are considered comparable) masks is recommended.

Is just a traditional face-covering effective enough?

. When the Air Quality Index is above 100 it is considered to be polluted and can affect sensitive people, children and older adults at first and as this index increases beyond 200 affect the general population as well. An ordinary face-covering fails to shield one from the dirt and soot in the environment. Proper protection can be obtained by inculcating a habit of using certified masks in our daily lives.

A recent study in Colorado found that N95 masks when worn properly offer robust protection against various sources of particulate matter, and reduce the wearers exposure by more than 14-fold. Simpler synthetic fibre masks and cloth masks only reduced exposure to a maximum of 4.4 and 1.9-fold respectively. Furthermore, studies carried out by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) have found that a surgical mask blocked 59% of respiratory aerosols from a cough, a three-layer cotton mask secured 51% of these aerosols, whereas an N95 mask beat the rest, blocked up to 95% of these aerosols. After much weighing, the best mask proves to be an N95 mask (or FFP2 S which are considered comparable)

The right practices

A study undertaken by the Indian Chest Society suggests a high rate of respiratory diseases in India prevailed even before Covid 19 hit. A BIS approved FFP2 S mask like Savlon provides protection from virus, dust, pollution, allergens and pollen (>= 0.3 micron). These masks provide 95% protection from particle aerosols >= 0.3 micron. These masks have electrostatically charged meltblown filters which provide advanced filtration compared to ordinary masks. These masks are also tested for comfort and skin compatibility. Savlon FFP2 S Masks are BIS Certified. Each batch undergoes rigorous testing on quality performance and efficacy as prescribed by BIS. By wearing a gwood quality, well fitted mask the effects of viruses, dust, pollution, pollen and allergens can be greatly reduced and can contribute to overall better health.

Masks should be adopted as a lifestyle change. We have to continue practicing well-established health interventions such as wearing masks in public places in today’s time of heavy air pollution. Remember hygiene Sahi, toh health Sahi.

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