Surgical or fabric mask? Which one is ideal for you?

MUSCAT: Surgical mask or fabric mask? Which one gives better protection from coronavirus infection? The disposable mask is costly and while the fabric is cheaper and easy to make.

Observer spoke to doctors on the pros and cons of using both types of masks, which is now mandatory in the Sultanate for people when they venture out of their homes.

Dr. Hamed al Harthy, Director of Al Nahdha Hospital, says surgical masks are better as they have three protective layers.  “While visiting hospitals or interacting with patients, one should wear surgical masks. At public places, you can wear fabric masks. However fabric must be washed regularly”.

“Both surgical masks and fabric masks give the same level of protection that we need. There is no credible proof that one is better over the other”, suggests Dr. Nigel Kuriakose from SQU Hospital.

He cites a study, which found that a cloth mask offers more protection than a surgical mask. Researchers, using measurement for viral loads, found 2.42 log copies per millilitre on the exterior of surgical masks and 1.85 log copies per millilitre  on the exterior of cloth masks of infected patients at two hospitals in Seoul, South Korea.

“Masks made of fabric are currently recommended in public places and they prevent transmission of disease by stopping the droplets from nose or mouth. But they are not that efficient in protecting the wearer as a surgical mask”, says Dr Benny Panakkal, a senior cardiologist.

Dr Dilip Singhvi, an internal medicine specialist, says the surgical mask is better in protecting from coronavirus infection. “We didn’t advocate it initially because there was an acute shortage of masks and fabric masks were used to bridge the gap”.

Ammujam Raveendran, an environmentalist, bats for reusable fabric masks to avoid littering. “Reusable cotton masks can be washed and worn several times, and even if disposed of, they are biodegradable”.

Masks worn for general purposes can be made out of 100 percent cotton fabric according to CDC guidelines, which stipulates that they should be 2-layered or more.

Whatever be  the type of mask, please keep in mind the following:

  1. Do not touch the exterior of the mask
  2. Dispose of the mask properly after use
  3. Do not interact with someone not wearing a mask
  4. A mask is not an alternative to hand washing and social distancing
  5. Never touch your face without cleaning hands