1-second hack to check if your mask is effective against COVID-19

With masks becoming the next must-have COVID purchase in Australia, there’s still a lot of confusion around which type is the most effective for stopping the spread. Luckily, one doctor has created a simple test, so you can ensure you’re keeping yourself and those around you safe.

As coronaviruses hotspots pop up around Sydney and Melbourne and the easing of lockdown restrictions is temporarily paused, masks have become a hot topic in Australia.

In Victoria, anyone going out in public in the metropolitan Melbourne or Mitchell Shire regions is required to wear a mask, and those who don’t will face a $200 fine. In NSW, masks aren’t technically required, but health officials have strongly recommended that people wear them when out and about, particularly in crowded spaces like public transport, where social distancing may be difficult.

But regardless of rules, there’s a lot of confusion surrounding face masks in general. With so many different types on offer, from disposable to reusable, which one is the best? And how can you tell if it’s actually keeping you and those around you safe?

Well, thanks to the assistant professor of Medicine at John Hopkins Medical School, there’s now a super easy test you can perform in a matter of seconds to answer those questions with confidence.

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All you need is yourself, your mask, and a candle.

“One good test is if you’re wearing your mask and you try to blow out a candle. If you cannot blow that candle out, your mask is doing a pretty good job of preventing air from your mouth from getting out,” Dr. Natasha Mubeen Chida told WBEZ Chicago.

According to Dr. Chida, the reason the test works is because the point of wearing a face mask isn’t just to protect yourself – it’s actually to protect other people.

“The goal is not to protect yourself, the goal is to protect people around you. These kinds of masks are most effective at preventing you from transmitting something to someone else,” says Dr. Chida

While the candle test is a good indicator, another doctor, Marcus Plescia of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials notes that it isn’t entirely foolproof.

“If you have an N95 and a surgical mask I would try it out with those. My sense is that you could blow out a candle with a surgical mask,” he told Well and Good, pointing out that surgical masks are still very effective at blocking COVID-19 transmission.

Nonetheless, Dr. Plescia agrees that the candle test is still a decent option for those without access to a professional lab-style mask test.

“I think most cloth masks that have two layers of fabric will provide reasonably good protection,” Dr. Plescia said.

“And don’t forget that eye protection is important, too. I recommend people wear glasses when they are out or face shields if you want to be extra cautious.”

If you’re after some masks to test out with this genius new hack, we rounded up some stylish and effective options here.

And remember that regardless of how well your mask holds up to the candle test, social distancing and close attention to personal hygiene are still super important and the most effective ways to stopping the spread of coronavirus.

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