Along with vaccines and social distancing, wearing face masks in public places has remained at the top of the list of ways to slow the spread of COVID-19. Face masks protect both the person w
mask, as well as those around them, by preventing the spread of respiratory
droplets that are projected when people talk, cough, sneeze, and laugh.
While the material and type of mask you choose to wear is certainly important, what’s even more important is how well your face mask fits. In this article, we’re going to discuss why having a well-fitting face mask is crucial to protect yourself and others in the fight against COVID-19. Here’s what you need to know.
Why the fit of your face mask matters
A team of researchers from the University of Cambridge performed a study in which they carried out a series of different face mask fit tests. They found that when a high-performance mask—such as an N95 mask, which is comparable to FFP3 masks available in the UK —is not properly fitted, it performs no better than a cloth mask in terms of protecting an individual.
In other words, a well-fitting cloth mask performs just as well as a poorly-fitted FFP3 mask! Why is this? Without a good seal between the mask and the wearer’s face, air with respiratory droplets containing the virus can leak in and out through the top and sides of the mask.
When an FFP3 fits properly, on the other hand, it filters out 99 percent of particles —even extremely fine particles like asbestos.
How can you tell if your mask fits properly?
In order to prevent air leakage, masks should fit snugly against the sides of the face and not have gaps. If you can fit a finger in the sides of your mask, it’s not tight enough.
For those who wear glasses, a clear indication of a poorly-fitted mask is foggy lenses, as this means your breath is escaping out of the top of your mask.
You can also check for gaps by cupping your hands around the outside edges of the mask and breathing in and out forcibly. If you can feel air flowing from the area near your eyes or from the sides of the mask, there’s a gap that should be tightened.
How can you improve the fit of your face mask?
So, how exactly can you improve the fit of your face mask if you notice gaps? Here are our top tips:
- Knotting and tucking: This technique involves knotting the ear loops of the mask where they join the edge of the mask. Then, fold and tuck the excess material under the edges. For a clear demonstration, watch this video .
- Adjust the nose wire: For masks that have a nose wire, make sure you adjust it so that it’s firmly folded across the bridge of your nose.
- Use a nose clip: If your mask doesn’t have a nose wire, or the nose wire isn’t doing the trick, buy a nose clip for face masks, which helps secure the mask around your nose.
- Double mask: A U.S. study found that when people wore a properly fitted surgical mask underneath a cloth mask, it increased their protection from respiratory droplets by 92 percent. This is likely because wearing a second mask offers a tighter fit with fewer gaps.
- Use a mask fitter: A mask fitter is a device that can be used over a cloth or surgical mask to reduce air leakage from the edges of the mask.
- Use a high-quality mask: High-performance masks like FFP2s and FFP3s are tighter and
- perform much better than cloth or surgical masks—but they have to fit correctly. Make sure to adjust the straps and nose wire until you get a secure fit.
- Trim your beard: Many men will hate this suggestion, but it can help to shave or trim your beard closer to your face to allow for a better fit.
The bottom line
Mask restrictions may be lifting, but the pandemic is not over yet and it’s encouraged to continue wearing a mask in busy public places, around people you don’t live with, or when someone in your house is sick.
To most significantly reduce your risk of getting and spreading COVID-19, wear a well-fitted, high-performance mask. Your mask should completely cover your nose and mouth, fit snugly against the sides of your face, and not have any gaps.
Stock up on high-quality face masks today at The Face Mask Store.
(Photo credit: Photo by Sylwia Bartyzel on Unsplash)