It’s all about the PARTICLES Baby!

It’s easy to get worked up about masks. That thing on your face; so annoying. and hey, didn’t I hear that they “didn’t work?” I say, refocus. Stop scrutinizing the mask; it’s all about the particles or micro droplets in science speak. You might not remember the awesome high speed photo catching a man mid-sneeze. His face is all screwed up and particles ejected around him like a geyser. (Search: high speed photo sneeze images) Pretty cool stuff for a nerd like me. I especially like the other photos using the same technique. There is stopped motion of a bullet through a tennis ball and a cat licking milk with tongue tip diving down and towards it’s mouth rather than the expected scooping upwards like a spoon. I digress.

What makes things tricky, is that most particles aren’t visible. We might feel the large droplets on our face and think Ewww when someone speaks-spits at us. But the smaller ones are not felt. German researchers placed a subject in a room with equipment to monitor these droplets’ with & without masks so particle spread could be visualized. Similar data was collected in a Japanese study. So, the short answer is that masks are effective enough to decrease spread and exposure of particles. I say effective enough, because 1 single viral particle is highly unlikely to infect with COVID, but an accumulation of particles or infection dose that can tip you into illness. Therefore, masks do not have to be 100% effective to keep you well. While an onslaught of particles assaults us with coughs or sneezes, just plain old breathing and talking sends out plenty.

I am comfortable for my 12 hour shift wearing first a medical mask that crimps at the nose and a softer cloth mask over that that snugs around my face. This decreases the gaping that can occur with either mask alone. I keep my masks comfortable and secure, so I don’t need to touch or adjust my masks during the day and this mask combo is my go-to when doing errands. I suppose I’ve accepted mask wearing, because it makes me less anxious about all the horrible news I’ve heard about younger people in their 40’s having significant problems such as multiple brain blood clots (strokes) and those in their 20’s & 30’s having persistent, significant shortness of breath and fatigue which limits their ability to be productive. I wish for all of us to be safe and at peace with our world. A small part may be seeing the invisible with gross pictures of people sneezing to encourage us to wear masks. I won’t spew on you and vice versa. My new motto could be: keep your spew to you! That’s terrible, but here’s hoping your days are anything but.

In health of all varieties,

Dr. V