At all temperatures, the thick cotton mask led to the most increased level of humidity.
The COVID-19 virus is highly contagious, and you have to take certain precautions to keep yourself safe from infection. Other than social distancing, frequent washing of hands and using sanitisers, you also have to wear a face mask for protection. Tit will also keep others safe from you if you carry the virus. Of course, face masks help protect people wearing them from getting or spreading SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. But now researchers have found evidence that there may be another potential benefit for wearers of face masks. Apparently, the humidity created inside the mask may help combat respiratory diseases such as COVID-19. So, it is not just a preventive tool. Also Read – Lockdown Extended Delhi For Another Week Despite A Decline In Covid Cases
Hydration of the respiratory tract helps
A new study by researchers in the NIH’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), found that face masks can significantly increase the humidity in the air that the mask-wearer breathes in. According to researchers, this elevated level of humidity in inhaled air may help explain why wearing masks has been linked to lower disease severity in people infected with this deadly virus. They say that it is a well-known fact that hydration of the respiratory tract is known to benefit the immune system. The Biophysical Journal published this study. Also Read – Coronavirus lab leak theory remains viable, should be investigated further, says a group of scientists
How humidity affects disease severity
Researchers found that face masks increase the humidity in inhaled air and the resulting hydration of the respiratory tract could be responsible for the documented finding that links lower COVID-19 disease severity to wearing a mask. High level of humidity is also known to significantly mitigate the severity of flu. Hence, it may also be applicable to the severity of COVID-19 infection through a similar mechanism. Also Read – As COVID-19 virus marches east, India’s North East states float new SOPs, restrictions
High levels of humidity can limit the spread of a virus to the lungs by promoting mucociliary clearance (MCC), a defense mechanism that removes mucus and harmful particles and pathogens present in the mucus from the lungs.
High levels of humidity can also bolster the immune system by producing special proteins, called interferons, that fight against viruses, a process known as the interferon response.
Low levels of humidity have been shown to impair both MCC and the interferon response, which may be one reason why people are likelier to get respiratory infections in cold weather.
The type of face mask that works best
The study tested four common types of masks: An N95 mask, a three-ply disposable surgical mask, a two-ply cotton-polyester mask, and a heavy cotton mask. The researchers measured the level of humidity by having a volunteer breathe into a sealed steel box. When the person wore no mask, the water vapor of the exhaled breath filled the box, leading to a rapid increase in humidity inside the box. When the person wore a mask, the buildup of humidity inside the box greatly decreased. This happened because most of the water vapor remaining in the mask became condensed, and it was then re-inhaled. To ensure no leakage, the masks were tightly fitted against the volunteer’s face using high-density foam rubber. Measurements were taken at three different air temperatures, ranging from about 46 to 98 degrees Fahrenheit. The results showed that all four masks increased the level of humidity of inhaled air, but to varying degrees. At lower temperatures, the humidifying effects of all masks greatly increased. At all temperatures, the thick cotton mask led to the most increased level of humidity. (With inputs from Agencies)