A doctor has outlined the rigorous testing procedure she is put through every year to ensure her N95 medical mask is doing its job – and why most of us probably have no clue as to how to use them correctly.
Leora Horwitz, a director at the Center for Healthcare Innovation, took to social media to say that those using masks in an attempt to protect themselves from coronavirus could in fact be increasing their risk of catching it.
There have been reports of shortages of N95 masks for medical staff around the world, which use a respirator to assist in help to block airborne particles.
In a thread on Twitter , Dr Horwitz said: "Non medical friends, let’s have a chat about masks. So, you’ve bought yourself a box of N95 masks and you think you’re good for COVID19.
"Let me tell you what my hospital makes me do EVERY YEAR to make sure my N95 mask fits (yes, they come in sizes)."
She explains that to have her mask properly fitted she puts it on, before a large plastic hood is fitted over her head.
Aspartame, a sweetener, is sprayed into the plastic hood and a series of tests are conducted, involving nodding her head in different directions, and crouching down and standing up several times.
If, at any point in the test, Dr Horwitz can taste aspartame, it means the mask is allowing particles in and she fails.
She has to read out loud to ensure the mask maintains its protection when she speaks. Every time she becomes aware of the sweetener, the mask is fitted again and the test restarts.
After that, Dr Horwitz is asked to demonstrate proper procedure in removing the mask to ensure she doesn't accidentally contaminate herself, which she says is 'much harder than it sounds'. If she does it incorrectly, she fails.
She wrote: "I guarantee you that a) your mask doesn't fit properly b) you have no idea how to put it on and take it off safely and c) you are probably putting yourself at more risk by messing with it. Which, whatever, it’s a free country. But here’s the thing.
"I also guarantee you that your purchase of this mask, which is useless to you, restricts supply for frontline healthcare workers. Every hospital is facing shortages. I suspect most are rationing already.
"If you want there to be enough equipment at least in the short term for people who you may need to stay healthy to take care of you, *stop buying the masks*."
She added regular surgical mask are great for people who are sick to reduce the chances of them spreading germs by coughing, but you should 'stop buying them too' as they don't keep viruses out and 'I promise you don't know how to take them off safely'.
The thread racked up almost 12,000 likes on Twitter, as one replied: "Excellent thread. People are going crazy with a false sense of security with improperly fitted masks.
"I did the test recently. At the end they make you break the seal so you can taste the aspartame as a positive control. It was awful!"
A second argued: "The main value of the masks is that you are less likely to touch your face."
Another commented: "I want to retweet this every day until the plague has run its course."
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