COVID-19 precautions: What is a neck gaiter and does it protect you as well as a face mask?
A recent study showed that when a person was wearing a neck gaiter, the transmission of droplets was about 110%
It has been over seven months since the COVID-19 infection was first reported in Wuhan, China. Since then, the infection has been continuously spreading across the globe, infecting more than 21 million people worldwide. To control and prevent the spread of the infection, it is necessary to wear face masks and covers when stepping out of your home. As an alternative to a mask, many people have been using face shields and, more recently, neck gaiters to cover their mouth and nose. But how effective are neck gaiters against the novel coronavirus ?
What are neck gaiters?
The neck gaiter is a closed loop of fabric (somewhat like a snood) that usually stays around a person's neck but can be pulled up to cover the mouth and nose. The neck gaiter is a versatile accessory, so it can be used as a face covering, headband, bandana, wristband, and neck warmer. Usually, it is made up of polyester and elastane. It is a breathable fabric which can be washed and reused again.
Are gaiters as effective as face covers and masks?
In a famous experiment, Martin Fischer, a chemist at Duke University, and his colleagues set up an experiment to test the relative effectiveness of different masks. In their experiment, a masked person was asked to speak into a wide laser beam placed in a dark room. The green laser beam showed droplets that were spewed from the person’s speech. They further captured a video of this experiment to calculate the number of droplets.
The study showed that when the person was wearing no mask, there was 100% transmission of droplets, while those wearing a fitted N95 mask showed less than 0.1% transmitted particles. When the person was wearing a neck gaiter, the transmission of droplets was about 110%.
The scientists stated that the extra 10% of transmission was seen due to the fabric of the neck gaiter which allowed the large droplets to breakdown into many smaller ones, medically known as aerosols. Thus the infectious particles could spread in the air for a longer period of time.
Should you use a neck gaiter?
Despite the study, some scientists stated that the material and thickness of the gaiter can influence their effectiveness. Since the study didn’t provide much information about the fabric the gaiters were made from or the process of their fabrication, it is still unknown if different types of neck gaiters can be effective against the transmission of the COVID-19 droplets.
The scientists demand more research on the effectiveness of the neck gaiters as they are extremely popular among runners and it would be interesting to see if these masks block droplets from heavy breathing, in addition to talking.
Until we know more about neck gaiters, people can use N95 masks (without a filter), surgical masks, face shields and face covers to not only protect themselves from the droplets that are produced by a COVID-19 positive person but also to protect others in case they themselves are infected with the novel coronavirus .
For more information, read our article on Face covers (homemade reusable masks) to battle COVID-19 .
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