Neck gaiters may be worse than not wearing a mask at all, study finds

While face coverings are essential to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, a new study shows that even the best neck gaiters could be worse than not wearing a mask at all. 

Out of the 14 masks analyzed in a study conducted by Duke University published last week, neck gaiters (a thin layer of material that covers the face and neck) were by far the least effective type of face covering. The study looked at droplet counts of people talking while wearing different types of face coverings. 

“We noticed that speaking through some masks (particularly the neck fleece) seemed to disperse the largest droplets into a multitude of smaller droplets, which explains the apparent increase in droplet count relative to no mask in that case,” the study’s authors wrote. “Considering that smaller particles are airborne longer than large droplets (larger droplets sink faster), the use of such a mask might be counterproductive.”

The study found that other face coverings like cotton masks or surgical masks are more effective at containing droplets than masks like neck gaiters, bandanas, or masks made of fleece.

The neck gaiters, which are popular for runners or athletes since they are made of more lightweight fabric, actually ranked worse than the no-mask control group. The specific neck gaiter tested in the study was made out of a pollster spandex material. 

Face coverings are mandatory in many places now, but this study shows that not all masks are created equal. If you’re looking for different types of face masks, cotton and surgical masks are the two most common types of masks you’ll find widely available, and the new study now backs up their effectiveness. 

For the latest updates on the novel coronavirus outbreak, visit the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 page.

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