UPDATED: June 9, 2021 17:07 IST
Monsoons have arrived in Mumbai and with the arrival of rains, people will be facing a serious issue in the middle of the second Covid wave how to tackle the issue of wet masks.
Breathing through wet masks can be a very challenging exercise and may prove to be dangerous to some. India Today TV asked people on the streets of Mumbai how they are dealing with their wet masks.
Ayub, an auto driver, refused to wear his mask. “Sir, I just have one mask and it is wet. I can’t breathe wearing it, so I have kept it in my pocket. When it gets dry, I will wear it again,” he said.
As rains lashed Mumbai on Wednesday, many could be seen doing away with their masks.
A biker on the way to his office said, “No one will wear a mask. How could anyone breathe through wet masks? And how many can one change during the rain? I understand that it is important to wear masks, but what can be done?”
When to change the masks?
India Today TV spoke to Dr Lancelot Pinto, Consultant Pulmonologist at PD Hinduja Hospital, who said, “Masks will get wet. When face masks get wet, the filtering mesh gets clogged and one has to breathe against resistance, making them very uncomfortable.”
“Apart from carrying extra masks in a waterproof pack, it might be prudent to recycle masks over a 5-day period, so that 4 days of not using the mask and storing it in a warm dry area can dry out the dampness and make them reusable on the 5th day. One should not ideally use masks for more than 3-4 times when used this way,” explained Dr Pinto.
If the mask becomes wet, one should change it. Also, if one experiences significant resistance in breathing, it is time to change the mask.
Double masking becomes difficult
The monsoons would affect double masking when one goes out. If it is a well-ventilated, open space without overcrowding, this would still be a relatively low-risk event, and a single mask should offer a reasonable degree of protection.
The bigger concern is always when one is indoors and in poorly ventilated spaces. The monsoons should not have much of an influence in such spaces, allowing individuals to double mask, the doctor explained.
Procedure to dispose of masks
Dr Pinto has said, “We do not believe that infection from touching surfaces is a major mode of spread, so putting the mask in a paper bag or a Ziploc and discarding it in the trash should suffice. It is important to sanitize one’s hands after doing so, in the event that the outer surface of the mask has been freshly contaminated.”
Is face shield an alternative?
Face shields are definitely not a substitute for masks, as shown by a study from Switzerland. It may complement the mask by acting as a protection for the eyes and as a shield against large droplets, said Dr Pinto.
“It is very important to not let our guard down and assume that there will not be future waves and newer variants. However, we have learnt a lot from the past one year, and as long as we implement policy based on these learnings, there is no need for fear or paranoia,” said Dr Pinto.
The doctor further said, “In addition, if we vaccinate rapidly, the combination of vaccination, prevailing protection because of past infections, and making sure we don’t repeat earlier mistakes (overcrowding, allowing gatherings in closed spaces) should ensure that future waves will be of lesser magnitudes.”