Condensation inside a face mask may help limit the amount of damage the coronavirus can do if a person becomes infected, according to new research.&nb
Condensation inside a face mask may help limit the amount of damage the coronavirus can do if a person becomes infected, according to new research.
The increased humidity in the air between a person’s mouth and their mask is believed to help the wearer’s body remove viral particles from the airways.
Experts from the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) found the mask-induced humidity hydrates the respiratory tract and allows infected mucus to be cleared, preventing it reaching the lungs where it can cause damage and lead to severe cases of Covid.
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Four masks were tested to investigate how they impacted on the level of humidity. A volunteer exhaled into a 95.3 litre box (pictured) while wearing either: no mask, a N95 mask, a surgical mask, a two-ply cotton-polyester mask, and a heavy cotton mask
The NIH team set out to learn more about previous research which found people who wear masks often have less severe forms of Covid-19.
Dr Adriaan Bax, lead author of the new study, said: ‘High levels of humidity have been shown to mitigate severity of the flu, and it may be applicable to severity of COVID-19 through a similar mechanism.’
Four masks were tested to investigate how they impacted on the level of humidity.
A volunteer exhaled into a 95.3 litre box while wearing either no mask, a N95 mask, a surgical mask, a two-ply cotton-polyester mask, and a heavy cotton mask.
Condensation inside a face mask may help limit the amount of damage the coronavirus can do if a person gets infected, according to new research. The increased humidity in the air between a person’s mouth and their mask is thought to assist the wearer’s body to clear viral particles out of the airways (stock)
Temperature, humidity and wind could be used to predict another wave of coronavirus
Air temperature and humidity play a key role in determining when and where a second wave of the pandemic will strike, new research shows.
Researchers say current forecasting models only take into account two factors – rate of transmission and recovery.
But by including data on humidity and temperature, researchers from Cyprus have been able to add a level of nuance that allows for more accurate forecasting.
‘The results suggest that two pandemic outbreaks per year are inevitable because they are directly linked to what we call weather seasonality,’ the researchers write in their study.
Any leakage around the edges of the mask was eliminated by fitting high-density rubber foam around the mask and to the volunteer’s face.
The water content in the air was measured in each instance to reveal how much water is trapped by the mask.
Humidity readings were taken at three temperatures: 8ºC, 22ºC, and 37ºC.
‘The ability of various types of synthetic and natural fibers to absorb water depends strongly on temperature,’ the authors write in the paper.
‘Natural fibers such as wool, cotton, and silk are particularly effective at absorbing water, whereas synthetic polyester or nylon fibers do so to a much lesser extent.’
Every mask increased humidity, but to varying extents.
At room temperature, the surgical mask increased the humidity of inhaled air by more than a third (38 per cent), whereas the N95 and polyester-cotton coverings increased the water content of inhaled air by up to 60 per cent.
Heavy cotton masks, the researchers found, led to an almost doubling of inhaled air humidity.
‘The increased level of humidity is something most mask-wearers probably felt without being able to recognize, and without realising that this humidity might actually be good for them,’ Dr Bax said.
‘Even as more people nationwide begin to get vaccinated, we must remain vigilant about doing our part to prevent the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19,’ added Dr Griffin Rodgers, director of the NIH’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).
‘This research supports the importance of mask-wearing as a simple, yet effective, way to protect the people around us and to protect ourselves from respiratory infection, especially during these winter months when susceptibility to these viruses increases.’
The full findings are published in the Biophysical Journal.