Schools across Canada are preparing to see students back into the classrooms with new safety measures in place. We chatted with Dr. Peter Maric, chief medical officer at Canadian respiratory protection company O2 Canada, to get the 411 on kids and masks. —Vita Daily
Hi Dr. Maric! Please tell us a bit about yourself to start.
I am the CMO of respiratory protection company O2 Canada, where I advise on research and development into clinical applications of our products. O2 Canada produces innovative respirators that protect people from harmful airborne particles. Our respirators look and feel like a mask, but are designed to offer additional features in terms of protection. I received my medical degree from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, and I also hold a bachelor of science with a double major in biochemistry and physiology. I’m a senior consultant emergency physician, assistant clinical professor of medicine and a board-certified physician in both Canada and Australia. I’m also a proud father of two.
What’s the difference between masks and respirators?
There are many different kinds of masks and respirators on the market and each is slightly different. For example, in health care, surgical masks were designed to contain exhaled droplets and protect the wearer from biological fluids being splashed into the mouth and nose, whereas respirators were designed to filter inhaled air and remove harmful particles and require a highly efficient filter and the ability to form an airtight seal to the face. That combination of filtration and seal restricts airborne particles from entering the wearer’s nose, mouth and, ultimately, lungs, and without a proper seal to the face, a respirator effectively becomes an expensive mask. For example, the O2 Curve respirator has a unique performance-oriented modular design, where the front shell optimizes protection and airflow while the ergonomic medical grade silicone seal fits most face shapes. The O2 Curve filter media is ionically charged to improve filter performance by attracting and trapping particles too small to be filtered mechanically, which efficiently removes particles as small as 0.1 microns in size. Due to its size, the O2 Curve can also easily fit underneath a surgical mask, providing two-way protection to both the wearer and others around them. The medical-grade silicone provides tight face seal, and coupled with highly breathable filters, provides a high level of protection from airborne particles.
What makes one type of mask more effective than others?
The effectiveness of a mask depends on the intended purpose. One needs to consider what they want to achieve in terms of protection, and it is worth considering the five Fs when purchasing a face covering: filtration, fluid resistance, fit, feel and features. Filtration and fluid resistance are obviously key considerations for health care workers. When considering purchasing a mask for everyday use by the general public, how it fits and feels on the face is also very important, especially with children. The more comfortable and breathable it is, the more likely it will allow them to wear it for extended periods of time. Finally, features such as how it secures to the face, (i.e., ear loops, behind the head straps, or even tape), as well as compatibility with glasses (including minimizing fogging), will make wearing it much more enjoyable and comfortable.
When it comes to face covering, what are the best options/practices for kids/students in school?
Model the behaviour you want to see in your children. Get your kids used to the idea that wearing a mask is a normal thing to do now, and let them work up to wearing it for longer periods of time. This way, when school rolls around, they will be more accustomed to it. Kids often won’t wear something if it isn’t comfortable or doesn’t fit well, so make sure to consider comfort and size when buying face masks for kids. There are also different ways to adjust straps, so experiment together to make sure they get a good fit, without causing too much pressure on their ears or neck. To minimize itchiness, it may help to purchase a variety of textures to see what mask your little one prefers the most.
Your top tips for keeping a child’s face mask clean and sanitized?
This obviously depends on the age of your child, but explain to them the purpose of wearing the mask. The more comfortable the mask, the less they might fidget with it. Educate them on the importance of hand hygiene, and to wash their hands whenever they touch the mask, especially when they take it off (such as before they eat). If you purchase a reusable mask, have an easy routine for cleaning it and storing it when they get home, so that they have a clean mask to wear every time they go out.
Advice on how to tell when a mask needs to be replaced?
If your mask is visibly damaged or soiled, that is an obvious sign it needs to be replaced. However if you have been in close contact with someone who has been unwell, or touched a contaminated surface and then your mask, those are also time that the mask should be replaced with a clean one. If you sneeze or cough into your mask, you should avoid touching it, which might cause you to contaminate others. If you have one available, this would also be a good time to replace it with a clean mask.
Top tips on how to encourage children to keep their mask on and how to communicate with them about the virus?
Explain to them why it’s necessary in a way that they understand. Typically we explain to kids that wearing a mask helps protect their friends, family, and community. Though often we like to encourage kids to share, in this case they need to understand that they can not trade their with friends, nor lend or borrow a mask that someone has been using. They need to think of their mask as being a personal item only, which is important to keep everyone safe. Remind your kids about frequently sanitizing or washing their hands, and teach them to do that properly. Make it a regular task throughout the day, so that it becomes a normal and even fun activity. Lastly, when it comes to style, take their concerns on board, but try not to sacrifice function for fashion.