People use gaiters as face masks, but are they as effective?

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As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that people wear cloth headgear whenever they are in public (and many states and businesses need them), face masks have become a hot commodity. during the COVID-19 pandemic. Hundreds of retailers, including Nordstrom, Anthropologie and Athleta, have started selling masks, from those with adjustable earrings to those with built-in filter pockets and even see-through masks.

However, although they are necessary to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, face masks are not always the most comfortable thing to wear. People – especially those who have to wear masks for long periods of time, such as essential workers and healthcare professionals – often complain of pain behind the ears due to mask straps and skin irritation. As a result, some began to look for alternatives to the traditional face mask.

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Enter the neck warmer. This large fabric tube is worn around the neck (instead of the ears) and is easily pulled up and down, to cover and uncover the mouth and nose at will. But are they as effective as masks? Here’s everything you need to know about neck warmers, according to the experts, and where to buy the best ones right now.

Are neck warmers effective?

Probably yes – if worn correctly, experts say. “Based on the data available, face covers, including gaiters, likely offer some benefit in that they will reduce the spread of respiratory droplets from an infected person to the area around that person,” says Jason Kessler. , MD, section chief of infectious diseases at Atlantic Health Center Medical System’s Morristown in New Jersey. He adds that the material, fit and whether or not the person is wearing the gaiter as recommended (over the mouth and nose) can all have an impact on its effectiveness as a face covering.

Whether a gaiter is as protective as a face mask is debated. Dr Kessler notes that there have not yet been studies comparing the two, so there is no conclusive recommendation. However, Emily Sickbert-Bennett, PhD, director of infection prevention at UNC hospitals in North Carolina, says, “We know that tight-fitting masks have better aerosol filtration, but most importantly people find a mask that is comfortable that they can and will wear. A neck warmer covering the nose and mouth would most likely be appropriate. “

How to choose a neck warmer

If you choose to wear a neck warmer, how do you choose the best one? Although, as mentioned, no studies have yet been done to differentiate the types of face coverings, Dr Kessler says there are certain characteristics to look for when choosing a gaiter. “Face cover made of several weaves [i.e., higher thread counts] appear to block more respiratory droplets than those with lower thread count, ”says Dr. Kessler, adding,“ Additionally, there is evidence that [face coverings] made of blended material (cotton plus other material) can also be a little more effective. “

Of course, comfort is also essential. Regardless of the material, experts like Dr Kessler and Dr Sickbert-Bennett point out that choosing a face mask or gaiter that you can comfortably wear for long periods of time will be more effective, as you won’t be tempted to take it off. . or adjust it, which could transfer germs from your hands to your face.

The best neck warmers you can buy

You can find neck warmers at a number of online retailers, from Amazon to REI to Etsy. The highest rated one on Amazon is the Mission neck warmer – which has received over 3,100 rave reviews for being both comfortable and breathable – closely followed by Achiou, which also has thousands of reviews for its. tight fit and its plethora of stylish designs. The most popular neck warmer at REI is this one from Blackstrap, which people say fits securely and is soft against your skin. And finally, Etsy has tons of different neck warmer options, including this highly recommended one that even has an adjustable nose to keep it from slipping.

No matter what you choose, it’s important that you wear Something, Recalls Dr. Kessler. “It’s hard to compare all of these factors to recommend masks over gaiters, but it’s clear that it’s better to wear a face mask of some kind,” he says.

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Prices were correct at the time of publication of this article, but may change over time.

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