COVID-19 transmission primarily occurs via respiratory droplets from breath, speech, coughs, and sneezes and is subjected to airborne transmission. Recommendations of using face masks and physical distancing to avoid the transmission of COVID-19 are a must. Face masks are the most widely used tool for preventing the spread of COVID-19. Seasonal variation is also given importance to the sharp increase of COVID-19 cases during lower temperature winter months of October through February. Here, it is important to understand the science behind the use of facemask to protect from the COVID-19 virus. It has been noted that there is prolonged viability of viruses due to lower temperature and low humidity.
Lower humidity results in faster dehydration of the respiratory droplets thus resulting in the aerosol which has a larger potential of transmission. Also, it is important to note that dehydration of the airways is known to cause decreased clearance of pathogens from the lungs due to their mucociliary pathway. Breath droplet generation which results in virus aerosolization is impacted by the hydration state of the epithelial surface of the respiratory tract. Using facemasks results in a substantial increase in the humidity of air inspired. The face mask strongly increases the effective humidity of inhaled air, thereby promoting hydration of respiratory epithelium which is known to be beneficial to the immune system.
The magnitude of the effect of temperatures ranging from 8 degrees to 27 degrees for different types of mask material was studied. It was noted that a high-density cotton mask helps to promote heat and humidify the inspired air. Natural fibers such as wool, cotton, and silk were more effective than synthetic polyester. In a pilot study, four types of masks were tested. An N-95 respirator mask, a regular surgical mask, NIH supplied mask containing cotton and polyester, a relatively thick-lined cotton mask about 22 g. It was concluded that the increased humidity of the air is real and helped ineffective mucociliary clearance which may limit viral spreading with the use of a mask.
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Reference Link: https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.12.23.2024867