Mouthguard against coronavirus: advantages, disadvantages and tips

Mouthguard against coronavirus: advantages, disadvantages and tips

To curb the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, wearing a face mask in public makes sense. In some areas of life, there is even a mask requirement. However, many people are unaware that not all protective masks protect against corona in the same way. In addition, wearing it has not only advantages but also certain disadvantages. In this article, you can read about the types of masks, where they should be used, and when a face mask makes sense.

What different types of masks are there?

Three types of masks are used as mouthguards or mouth and nose protection. All three types have different advantages and disadvantages. Types of masks include:

  • homemade face mask (everyday mask)
  • Mouth and nose protection (surgical mask)
  • FFP Mask

In addition, visors (face shields) are also used in some areas.


The homemade mouthguard

The self-made face mask made of fabric is also known as an every day or community mask. It can help protect the wearer’s environment from germs that one would emit without a face mask, for example, when speaking or coughing. However, this does not protect the person wearing the face mask, as infection with the coronavirus can also occur through the mucous membrane of the eyes. In addition, isolated virus particles from the air can get into the mask from the side since homemade masks do not seal sufficiently against the face. Safe protection against the transmission of the coronavirus is therefore not guaranteed.

However, a study showed that self-sewn mouth-nose masks can help retain droplets emitted by coughing and sneezing, so they travel less far than without a face mask. In addition to a good fit of the mask, the material and the type of sewing also play an essential role. A double-layer sewn community mask made of cotton performed best when comparing the makeshift masks. A cone-shaped sewn mask showed less promising results, and a scarf worn as mouth and nose protection achieved the worst values.

An advantage of such makeshift masks is that you can no longer touch your mouth and nose, and the mask reminds you to touch your face less. This is especially important after touching a doorknob in public space. The virus can be transmitted by touching infected surfaces if you touch your mouth, nose or eyes with your infected hands and thus absorb the virus.

  • Advantage: The mask is easy to make from fabric and protects the environment.
  • Disadvantage: The wearer himself is not or hardly protected.

Mouth and nose protection (surgical mask)

Mouth and nose protection (MNS) is the mask that is used in the operating room. It consists of several layers of paper or fleece and is a disposable product. This means it should only be worn once and not be reused afterwards. These masks were a scarce commodity in the beginning, but now, such surgical masks are available in many shops and online shops.

This face mask also protects the environment from the virus, not necessarily the person wearing it. Protection against viruses such as the coronavirus cannot be guaranteed due to the mask not sealing correctly on the face and the lack of a filter function for the inhaled air.

  • Advantage: The mask protects the environment.
  • Disadvantage: The mask is a disposable product and does not sufficiently protect the wearer from viruses.


Die FFP-Maske (Filtering Face Piece)

The FFP mask is the only mask proven to protect the person wearing it from the coronavirus. It does this by filtering the air, preventing airborne germs from entering the mask. FFP masks without a valve also protect the environment around the wearer, while those with a valve only protect the wearer himself. This is because the valve allows exhaled air to escape unfiltered.

There are three forms of FFP masks, with protection levels FFP2 and FFP3 being used to protect against the coronavirus. A classification comparable to FFP2 is the designation N95, which is common in the USA.

Unfortunately, such masks cannot be manufactured in-house because they are certified, i.e. recognized for protection against the coronavirus. At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, FFP masks were scarce. They should be reserved as protective equipment for medical staff, in particular, who are exposed to an increased risk of infection through daily contact with infected people. However, FFP2 masks are now available almost everywhere and can be purchased and worn by everyone.

  • Advantage: The mask without a valve protects the wearer and the environment.
  • Cons: You can’t make it yourself. Masks with a valve are hazardous to the environment and should, therefore, not be used.

The visor (face shield)

In addition to the various forms of mouth and nose protection, there is also the option of wearing a visor or face shield (face shield), i.e. a transparent protection (usually made of plastic) that is usually attached to a headband and covers the entire face. In the medical field, such visors protect against splashes, for example, during an operation. They can be worn in addition to a mask, as they can help protect the person wearing them from droplets getting on the mucous membranes of the eyes, for example. You also keep us from touching ourselves in the face.

According to experts, however, they are unsuitable for replacing a mouth and nose protector, as the exhaled air can quickly get past the visor. Studies have also confirmed that there needs to be more than a protective effect on the environment.

Whether a visor can legally replace mouth and nose protection if covering the mouth and nose is mandatory has yet to be uniformly regulated. However, in the case of one student, a court ruled that face shields were not an equivalent substitute.

What are the advantages of wearing a mouthguard?

As already explained, wearing a face mask, apart from the FFP mask, primarily benefits the environment but not the wearer himself. It makes sense to wear a mask, especially in a household with vulnerable people. To protect these people.

In the context of the coronavirus pandemic, people at risk include:


Why is a face a valuable mask in public?

Wearing a face mask in public is also considered helpful in slowing down the spread of the coronavirus. If many, or possibly all, wear respiratory protection, then more people will be protected. Everyone wearing a mask protects each other. The effectiveness of masks to protect against the spread of the coronavirus has now been confirmed in numerous studies.

In addition, some sufferers experience only mild symptoms or no symptoms at all when they have COVID-19. These people may, therefore, not protect their environment adequately from themselves. Above all, wearing a mask can also prevent transmission from symptom-free sufferers to other people.

Another advantage is the already mentioned effect of reducing touches on the face. Many people must realize how often they touch their faces during the day. Transmission through touching the eyes, nose and mouth with infected hands is an avoidable transmission route. People wearing masks cannot touch their noses and mouths, protecting themselves from their potentially infected hands.

In addition, wearing a face mask could have a general reminder function. On the one hand, it reminds you to stop touching yourself; on the other hand, it could promote awareness of keeping your distance from others.

Does wearing a face mask also have disadvantages?

Wearing a face mask not only has advantages but also has some disadvantages.

Experts point out the risk that the wearer might feel protected. As already explained, wearing a mask (except for FFP) does not protect you but your environment from germs. Due to the false sense of security, general hygiene measures are quickly forgotten. But here, too, the following protective measures must be heeded:

  • Regular hand washing, especially after contact with surfaces.
  • Cough or sneeze into the crook of your arm or a handkerchief. Dispose of the handkerchief as soon as possible.
  • Keep at least one and a half to two meters from other people.
  • Meet with others outdoors and ventilate indoor rooms regularly.

In addition, a mouthguard only makes sense if it is used correctly, i.e., when it fits properly. It is changed when it gets wet and does not encourage you to touch your face regularly to check or correct the fit. Tests also showed that neither fabric nor surgical masks can safely withstand an accelerated expulsion of breathing air in the form of a cough. Hence, the protection of others is not entirely guaranteed. Well-fitting FFP2 masks or FFP3 masks, therefore, have the best protective effect.

Why did the WHO and RKI initially warn against wearing a face mask?

The supply of disinfectants and face masks was scarce in Germany, especially at the beginning of the pandemic. Mouth and nose protection is necessary for carrying out essential operations, and the FFP mask is the only proven protection against sick people. These masks were, therefore, primarily required by medical staff who come into daily contact with people who may or have been proven to have corona.

It was initially feared that a rush for the few available masks would mean the supply of hospitals and care facilities could no longer be guaranteed. For this reason, the Robert Koch Institute, like the World Health Organization (WHO), initially spoke out against the mass use of masks but only advised people with an acute respiratory disease to do so. The situation is now different, so this argument no longer speaks against wearing masks.

In addition, it was feared that wearing a face mask would give people a false sense of security and neglect other hygiene measures. You should always consider these disadvantages and take appropriate measures to protect yourself and others from the coronavirus by covering your mouth and nose.

In the meantime, wearing suitable face masks is expressly recommended by the authorities mentioned.


Mouthguard – yes or no?

In summary, wearing a face mask does not guarantee protection against the virus. Still, it does guarantee limited environmental protection and, depending on the mask, also for the wearer himself. Numerous studies have now confirmed the effectiveness of this protective measure.

Seven tips for the correct use of the mouthguard

To keep the risk of infection as low as possible with any mouthguard and to prevent viruses from getting to the inside of the respiratory protection, you should observe the following tips when putting it on and taking it off:

  1. Please wash your hands with soap before putting them on. If soap is not within reach, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  2. Ensure there is no gap between the mask and the face when you put it on. For example, you can tighten existing ligaments. In particular, anyone who wears a beard or glasses should ensure the mouthguard fits securely.
  3. Avoid touching the mask while wearing it. If touching is unavoidable, clean your hands before and after touching the mask.
  4. Even if you remove the mask, you should not touch it on the front, but pull it off from the back using the straps.
  5. If your mask is reusable, put it in a closed container after wearing it. If you wear a mouth and nose protector, dispose of it after a single use.
  6. As soon as your mask is damp, you should no longer wear it and – if it is reusable – only reuse it after appropriate preparation.
  7. After removing the mask, clean your hands again with soap or disinfectant.

How long and how often can a mouthguard be used?

A face mask cannot be reused indefinitely. The recommendation for the duration of use and the number of reuses varies between the three mask types.

The recommendation for mouth and nose protection is to dispose of it after wearing it once and for a maximum of two hours.

The homemade mouthguard should ideally be washed after each use; otherwise, at least after three to four hours of use, if it is visibly soiled and, in any case, when it is damp. It is advisable to wash the mask at regular intervals at 60 to 90 degrees or to boil it in a water bath on the stove for five minutes.

The FFP masks can be used over an eight-hour shift in the hospital. However, it is recommended to wear them for a maximum of 75 minutes and then take a break. Longer reusable masks are also used; these can be cleaned and disinfected. An “R” for “reusable” marks this mask type, “NR” means for single use.


How do I make my face mask?

To make a face mask yourself, you should use a breathable fabric that can be washed at 60 to 90 degrees. The following materials are available for this purpose:

  • dishtowels
  • pillowcases
  • Cotton t-shirts

The use of vacuum cleaner bags for the production of masks or inlay filters is also often recommended. However, manufacturers often advise against this because the bags may contain a chemical powder. A detailed description of how to make a makeshift mouthguard can be found in numerous sources on the Internet. 

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