Do masks really protect us or merely provide us with a false sense of security? How are they used correctly, in which situations are they not recommended, and can they really be worn for 8 hours a day in an office?

We wear our masks every day, and many of us for a few hours because some of us are in contact with the public, and we think we know everything about how to wear them — and how to handle them. However, studies on the Coronavirus and the information that comes with it, also keeps us informed on how we should be using these masks.

We discussed this in an article from a few weeks ago, and now the latest updates from the Istituto Superiore di Sanità (the Italian National Institute of Health or ISS) mention interesting information on virus survival on the surfaces and in-between the tissue-weaving of the masks. Let’s see what this is all about.

ISS news on masks and COVID-19

The ISS study entitled “Interim Recommendations on the Sanitization of Non-Healthcare Facilities in the Current COVID-19 Emergency” (translated from Italian) describes how infectious viral particles can be detected on mask tissue (i.e. “wefts”) up to 24 hours after contamination, while in the inner-layers of surgical masks, traces of the virus can be detected up to four days. Here, a clarification should be made that what is detected is not SARS-CoV-2 but its RNA, so the presence of traces of the virus is not directly related to its actual infectivity.

The ISS report makes further considerations on the persistence of the virus on various surfaces and its temperature resistance. For example, the virus is highly stable at 40°C; fortunately, Winter is long-over, and the Spring temperatures that are rising quickly are coming to our aid, even since we must remember that at 56°C the infectivity is drastically reduced in only 10 minutes, and after 30 minutes the virus is no longer detected.

Masks and their use

Reusable (i.e. washable) masks should only be used once and then immediately put into the washing machine with other clothes, provided that the washing temperature is at least 60°C.

Disposable masks should be thrown in the trash immediately after use and especially not thrown on the floor because of their impact on the environment. Various methods are being studied, in order to sanitize masks and therefore be able to use them several times; methods that use UV rays or ozone.

How can we use them when we’re participating in sporting activities?

They should simply not be used because they lose their protective effectiveness when they become wet with sweat, and the moist environment promotes the virus, instead of hindering it. Finally, breathing the air we exhale is not good for us, because it contains carbon dioxide and a lower concentration of oxygen; the consequence is fatigue, dizziness, confusion, and an elevated heart rate.

Keep in mind that we’re referring to physical activity and not normal work or playtime activity. In recent days, we’ve also read that masks may do harm and even cause cancer! So among Doctors and Nurses (who wear a mask many hours per day), think of Surgeons and all O.R. Nurses — that there should be a higher frequency of cancer cases than the national average. This is not the case!

Common sense is the recommendation that should be followed (i.e. maintain a physical distance from people and perform physical activity with peace of mind). Even at the end of intense physical activity, it’s better to maintain physical (i.e. “social”) distancing, as you’ll still be breathing deeply and it’s not advisable to wear a mask. Only after you’ve calmed your breathing and dried your face off (from sweat) will you be able to wear a mask again.

This post is also available in: Italiano

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