Can a neck gaiter protect you against spreading COVID-19? Plus everything you need to know about selecting the right mask

Alyssa Tria
·4-min read

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Are neck gaiters as effective as non-medical face masks?
Are neck gaiters as effective as non-medical face masks?

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There is no evidence to support that wearing a face mask will protect you from COVID-19. You should still avoid touching your face, washing your hands frequently for 20 seconds using warm water and soap and practice social distancing.

Sure, it’s hard to argue with any face cloth covering being better than not wearing one at all, but the truth is that some protective gear has proven to be more effective than others when it comes to preventing the spread of COVID-19.

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approve of and highly recommend the use of traditional non-medical masks over alternatives, like face shields, when out in public spaces, new research on one option that has been undergoing evaluation and scrutiny over the past few months has recently emerged.

In a study conducted by the University of Georgia that has not yet been published, researchers put the preventive measures of neck gaiters against respiratory droplets to the test by using a 3D-printed box that was designed to reduce air particles, a Class 1000 clean room and a laser. The researchers had an adult male subject wear Amazon’s four bestselling two-layer cloth face masks, five of the top single-layer neck gaiters and three multi-layer gaiters from Mission. Each face covering was tested three times.

The results found that gaiters with one layer provided a 77 per cent average reduction in respiratory droplets compared with wearing no face mask while gaiters made up of two or three layers (polyester and spandex) provided a 96 per cent reduction in respiratory droplets. Two-layer face masks also reported providing an 81 per cent reduction in respiratory droplets.

ALSO SEE: Study may hold key for COVID-19 long-haulers experiencing brain fog

The initial overblown case was that neck gaiters may be worse than going maskless. Suraj Sharma, a professor of polymer, fibre and textile sciences at the University of Georgia, and co-author of the latest study, tells Yahoo Life that he wanted to study neckwarmer-like scarf to clear up misconceptions about the face coverings.

“There has been a tremendous amount of conflicting information put out in recent months on face coverings, leading many people to believe that gaiters provide little to no protection, relative to masks,” he says. “This didn’t make sense to us. The type of material and number of layers should determine the efficacy of a face covering more so than the form factor. We wanted to put that thesis to the test.”

Sharma and co-author Tho Nguyen, a fellow professor at the University of Georgia, say, “It was clear from the results that whether a face cover loops behind your ears like a mask or goes around your head like a gaiter, the reduction in respiratory droplets is driven by the material and the number of layers used, rather than the form factor of a mask or gaiter.”

According to the CDC, acceptable masks should be made with two or more layers of fabric (preferably cotton) to stop the spread of COVID-19.

ALSO SEE: Mom whose 12-year-old daughter died from COVID-19 urges people to 'be kind' and wear a face mask

While this new research may change the rep of neck gaiters, there are some important dos and don’ts to keep in mind when selecting a face covering. It is recommended that your mask should have the following criteria:

  • two layers or more of washable and breathable fabric

  • completely cover your nose and mouth

  • fit snuggly against the sides of your face without gapping

It should be noted that the CDC does not approve of completely see-through, vinyl masks, masks with valves and vents that allow particles to escape and masks intended for healthcare workers, including N9 respirators and surgical masks.

To help you shop for the right mask, we did the research for you and handpicked masks that are sure to keep you safe.

Adult Contour Mask with Filter Pocket (3-Pack)

Adult Contour Mask with Filter Pocket (3-Pack)
Adult Contour Mask with Filter Pocket (3-Pack)

SHOP IT: Gap, $24

Set of 2 Reusable Masks

Set of 2 Reusable Masks
Set of 2 Reusable Masks

SHOP IT: Frank and Oak, $24

UA SPORTSMASK Fleece Gaiter

UA SPORTSMASK Fleece Gaiter
UA SPORTSMASK Fleece Gaiter

SHOP IT: Under Armour, $45

TICONN Neck Gaiter Face Cover Scarf

TICONN Neck Gaiter Face Cover Scarf 
TICONN Neck Gaiter Face Cover Scarf

SHOP IT: Amazon, $15

The 100% Human Face Mask 5-Pack

The 100% Human Face Mask 5-Pack
The 100% Human Face Mask 5-Pack

SHOP IT: Everlane, $38

Everyday Non-Medical Masks 5 Pack

Everyday Non-Medical Masks 5 Pack
Everyday Non-Medical Masks 5 Pack

SHOP IT: Athleta, $30

Fall Ribbed Mask Four Pack

Fall Ribbed Mask Four Pack
Fall Ribbed Mask Four Pack

SHOP IT: Masqd, $65

RHO LTW NECK GAITER

RHO LTW NECK GAITER
RHO LTW NECK GAITER

SHOP IT: Arc'teryx, $50

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