Should you shave your beard in the middle of coronavirus? Experts intervene in mask debate – National


The weather is getting colder and beards are getting busier as some Canadian men look to add an extra layer of warmth to their face this winter.
Others, motivated by lockdown measures and prolonged working conditions at home, may see this as the perfect time to see how unruly those whiskers can get before a cut is needed.

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But as long as mask wear is encouraged amid the COVID-19 pandemic, should they be worried about facial hair interfering with the effectiveness of facial coatings?

Some experts say men should shave their beards in order to get the best mask fit, but others say it depends on how long the stubble is and whether their job requires a more fitted respirator.

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The CDC has a facial hair and N-95 infographic on their website, outlining styles that are safe, including handlebar whiskers and soul patches. Other looks – like extended billy goats, mutton chops, and Van Dykes – cross the seal of the mask and must go.

Dr Christopher Labos, a Montreal-based doctor, says the advice is good for healthcare workers, but when it comes to regular sheet masks, breaking a seal isn’t as much of a concern.

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“If it covers your mouth and nose, it does what it’s supposed to do,” he says. “Whether there is a gap on the side isn’t really here or there because there is always a gap.”

Dr Jane Wang, a clinical instructor at UBC who has studied face masks extensively, disagrees.

Wang’s recent research suggests that bearded men experience more leaks – droplets expelling through mask gaps – than those who do not. Areas that leak from masks are more prominent around the nose, chin, and cheeks, and pleated masks tend to leak more than other styles.

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Having facial hair sticking out of a mask increases that area of ​​leakage, she said. So, the most effective way to make sure that a cloth mask fits around the face is to remove the beard.

“Having more leaks decreases filtration,” Wang said, adding that research on mask fit and leakage dates back to the 1990s. “So the air we breathe will go through the leak and not through the filter. of the mask. ”

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Dr. Lisa Bryski, an emergency room doctor in Winnipeg, has seen many colleagues shave their beards in order to properly wear masks in the healthcare field.

While a fabric cover doesn’t offer the same level of protection as an N-95, Bryski suggests men outside of frontline workplaces might want to pick up the razor as well.

“It’s a personal choice, but anything you do to increase your own protection and the protection of others is appropriate in these times,” she said.

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For some men, such as those in the Sikh community, shaving their beards is not a viable option. Sukhmeet Sachal, a second year medical student at the University of British Columbia, recognized this and offered a solution.

Sachal is part of a group that distributes modified face masks to Sikh men in gurdwaras, or places of meeting and worship. The masks, made by volunteers, wrap around the beard and tie over the turbans, giving Sikh men a better alternative than a regular face mask they might buy in a store.

Sachal said he got the idea when he walked into a gurdwara with his father and hardly saw anyone wearing a mask. Although he says there may have been a combination of reasons for this, beards played a role.

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“We heard from people directly that there were no masks available for them,” Sachal said. “When they went to the store, they didn’t find any.”

Sachal says that the hair, whether on your face or on your head, is considered in Sikhism to be a gift from God. Turbans are wrapped around the hair to protect it, and most Sikh men refrain from cutting their hair or shaving their beards.

“That’s why these masks are important,” Sachal said. “They allow people to practice their religion while being safe.”

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Colin Furness, an epidemiologist at the University of Toronto, sees the beard as a “variable” in how a mask fits, but “not a determinant.”

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A mask can be ill-fitting whether you have a beard or not, he explained. And while facial hair length has an additional impact on fit, he says wearing a mask is just one of the safety precautions we should take.

“I don’t think the beard should be demonized because it’s not just about wearing a mask,” he said. “You also maintain physical distance, you don’t make big crowds either…

“It’s when you start to think that masks completely protect you that beards become riskier.”

Wang says those who keep their beards should always wear masks.

“It will be less effective, but it’s better than nothing,” she says.

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© 2020 The Canadian Press


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