Covid in UAE: Some mask modifications could help reduce chances of infection, say doctors

Certain changes can improve fit and boost performance

By Nandini Sircar

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Published: Fri 21 Jan 2022, 2:41 PM

Last updated: Fri 21 Jan 2022, 8:05 PM

The spread of respiratory particles can be curbed by altering face masks as per a recent study published in the American Journal of Infection Control.

The researchers evaluated five types of masks, eight modifications, and both mannequins and human beings to understand the effect of escaping aerosols.

Researchers and doctors point out pandemic recommendations continue to call for mask-wearing regardless of vaccination status.

Dr Shehnas Puthiyaveettil Abu, Specialist Internal Medicine/Pulmonary Diseases, LLH Hospital Abu Dhabi said, “It is true that double masking and adjusting the fit more tightly around the face reduces the transmission of respiratory particles. The receiver’s exposure is reduced by 95 per cent when the infected source and receiver were fitted with modified medical procedure masks."

"Aerosols in the size range of less than 10 microns will be blocked by a mask when it is used properly. When the source and receiver were both fitted with the double mask or knotted and fitted masks, the cumulative exposure of the receiver is reduced by 95-96 per cent.”

Medics explain the improvement in the fitted filtration efficiency (FFE) of procedure masks when doubled or when worn underneath reusable cloth face coverings is consistent with minimizing leaks between the mask and facial skin, including the bridge of the nose.

So, it is advised to wear masks properly to reduce the chances of infection.

Dr Hassan Kazia Specialist Internal Medicine Prime Medical Center, Sheikh Zayed Road Branch said, “As per experts the performance of face masks for controlling the spread of infection is twofold, dependent upon both the ability of the mask material to filter aerosols, and on how well the mask fits the wearer.”

Kazia further says, “Do not touch the mask when wearing it. If you have to touch/adjust your mask often, it doesn’t fit you properly, and you may need to find a different mask or adjust it properly. The take-home message is to wear a mask that fits well, and if a cloth mask is used, to make sure that it consists of at least two layers of material.”

Besides, doctors urge everyone to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer before putting on their masks.

Dr Syed Nadir, Medical Director & Head of Medical Department, Adam Vital Hospital, said, “Unmodified medical masks blocked 56 per cent or more of cough aerosols and 42 per cent or more of exhaled aerosols. By comparison, adding a cloth mask on top of a medical mask blocked 85 per cent or more of cough aerosols and 91 per cent or more of exhaled aerosols, and adding a brace over a medical mask blocked 95 per cent or more of cough aerosols and 99 per cent or more of exhaled aerosols.”

“According to one of the studies in relation to Omicron, it is advised to use well-fitting surgical masks and KN95 masks as they offer the next best protection, followed by cloth masks with multiple layers. Unfitted and loose cloth masks have the least protection alone. Till now N95 provides the best protection against Covid-19.”


Medical practitioners also reiterate that according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) if a person chooses to make their mask, it should be made of three layers of fabric.

The inner layer should be of cotton, middle layer of non-woven non-absorbent material such as polypropylene and the outer layer should be made of non-absorbent material, such as polyester or polyester blend.

Additionally, securing a medical mask with a brace provides the best protection against respiratory aerosols.

Dr Dennis Monzon, General Practitioner, Al Futtaim Health: Health Hub - Karama Branch says, “It is important not only to reduce the effects of pandemic on humans but also to slow the viral mutation which could alter transmission and affect the usefulness of diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines. Multiple simple ways to improve fit have been demonstrated to be effective.”

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