What are antiviral face masks?
The CDC and World Health Organization have recommended the use of face masks to help slow the spread of COVID-19 during the coronavirus pandemic that we are facing. Fortunately, many people have begun to adopt this practice. Easy Masks was formed to help produce face masks in order to keep our communities safe. There are now many masks being sold online through sites like ours, or even by individuals who have made masks and are selling them on sites like Etsy.
Unfortunately, there is also a lot of misinformation out there regarding mask usage as well as marketing many masks as "antiviral". While we certainly support the increase of mask availability, it is important to understand the facts behind some of these claims. We want to provide good quality information to you, so we have put together the below facts regarding the term "antiviral" and whether or not face masks can have antiviral properties.
What is the definition of "antiviral"?
The definition of the term antiviral according to Merriam-Webster is: acting, effective, or directed against viruses, an antiviral vaccine/drug. As a noun, this means an antiviral agent and especially a drug.
Are face masks antiviral?
Despite the fact that face masks may have some antiviral properties in that they help prevent the spread of COVID-19, they are not themselves an antiviral. They are not fighting the virus.
To date, there has been one mask approved by the FDA as an antiviral mask. This face mask was developed by Curad. It is called the BioMask and has an antiviral agent on the surface of the mask that has only been tested against specific seasonal flu viruses, Pandemic H1N1*, Avian* and Swine* & Equine*. The BioMask has a hydrophilic plastic coating that rapidly absorbs aerosol droplets away from the outer surface of the mask. The mask was not tested against COVID-19 and is no longer being distributed online.
There are other masks out there that claim to be "antimicrobial." If we again visit our good old friend Merriam-Webster, we learn that this term refers to destroying or inhibiting the growth of microorganisms and especially pathogenic microorganisms. Masks are being developed with different compounds such as copper threads in them as copper is known for having some antimicrobial properties. However, in order to be effective, a mask would need to be incorporated into nearly every single fiber and would not let you breath properly.
What you should be looking for in face masks.
Both the CDC and the WHO recommend the use of non-medical masks when you have to be in public and cannot social distance. Although they state that non-medical face coverings should not be considered PPE that would be used by healthcare workers, cloth masks and masks made of other fabric materials can help stop the spread of coronavirus.
When looking for a mask, be sure to check out the product details. Based on recommendations, your face covering should consist of 2 fabric layers with an optional third filter layer in between the outer layer and inner layers of material. Masks should be breathable and are designed to prevent the wearer from potentially spreading COVID-19 to others through respiratory droplets. If you choose a reusable face mask, be sure to wash it regularly.
If you are shopping for a mask that meets CDC guidelines, we encourage you to visit our Easy Masks store website.
William (B.J.) Lawson, MD
Co-Founder of Easy Masks