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Still Worried About Masks? Here’s All You Need To Know About Masks And Mask-Hygiene

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This post is a part of YKA’s dedicated coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak and aims to present factual, reliable information. Read more.

COVID-19 has brought one sanitation and hygiene product to the forefront: masks. Earlier, the use of masks was limited to medical and sanitation personnel, but now, the entire world is bound to wear them in the battle against the pandemic. Many varieties of masks are available in the market. You may often find yourself confused upon the thought of having to buy a mask. Medical masks, cloth mask, N95 respirators, P100 respirators, full-length face shield, etc., the list is exhausting! Right?

You might even wonder what all these mean. Are these all the same? Do they all provide protection against COVID-19? What do these letters ‘N’ or ‘P’ signify? First of all, it is significant to know the difference between a mask and a respirator.

n95 pollution mask for covid19
Are These Masks Effective Against COVID-19?

A mask (surgical or comfort) generally gives 3-layer protection to filter out respiratory droplets and relatively larger pollutants, like dirt, dust, and smoke. A respirator, on the other hand, acts as an air purifier. It is ideal for filtering even minute particulate matter, such as PM2.5, which is about one-tenth of the size of a human hair. A respirator is made to completely fit over the face not to allow tiny particles to pass through it.

Respirators are rated according to their resistivity and filtration efficiency. The respirators are assessed in the following manner according to their resistance to oil-based pollutants:

‘N’ denotes that the mask is not resistant to oil-based pollutants.
‘R’ denotes that the mask is resistant to oil-based pollutants.
‘P’ denotes that the mask is oil-proof.

Some popular respirators are as follows:

N95: It is one of the most widely acclaimed masks nowadays. As already established, it is non-resistant to oil-based pollutants and filters 95% of the air pollutants (PM2.5). N95 respirators have air valves that provide a distinct passage to let out the exhaled air. These are reusable and washable that makes them durable. However, the filter is not replaceable.

N99 and N100: These respirators have a filtering efficiency of 99%-99.7%. Like N-95 counterparts, they cannot filter oil-based air pollutants. Such masks are relatively harder to find and can be acquired directly from the supplier. These are washable and reusable.

P95 and R95: These provide complete and partial resistance from oil-based pollutants, respectively. 95 signifies that the masks can filter 95% of the air pollutants. Both of these are expensive than the other masks available in the market.

Are These Masks Effective Against COVID-19?

mother daughter wearing mask
Representational image.

Yes, certainly. The mode of transmission of COVID-19 is via infected respiratory droplets. The virus is so tiny that it settles on the water droplets of the cough or sneeze of an infected person. These can stay suspended in the air and travel farther distances. Thus, increasing the risk for people around them.

Respirators cover the mouth and nose of the user to reduce their susceptibility to contract the virus. Nowadays, scientists are speculating the possibility of coronavirus having spread via airborne particles. Thus, respirators would be an apt choice because they are ideal even to filter PM2.5 if this theory is eventually accepted.

Are These Masks Effective To Keep Me Safe From Smog?

Absolutely! Respirators are tailor-made to protect you from air pollutants. Provided that they are the right fit for your face, they can effectively filter particles that are one-tenth of the size of a single strand of human hair. Also, basic mask-hygiene needs to be followed.

How should I wear a mask?

Maintaining a proper mask-hygiene is equally vital to ensure that you are immune from the virus. Not wearing a mask  in the right manner is as bad as not wearing it at all. It makes you vulnerable and increases your chances of contracting the virus.

You should keep the following points in mind while wearing a mask:

  • Cover your nose as well as mouth completely.
  • Do not touch the surface of your mask while putting it on or taking it off. Hold it by the ear strings for the same.
  • Sanitize your mask regularly according to the type you are using.
  • Do not keep your mask on your neck while eating or talking.
Featured image for representational purposes only.
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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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