Neck gaiters can protect against spreading COVID-19, study finds

In the world of face masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19, neck gaiters have gotten a bad rap. In fact, they are not considered acceptable face coverings in Disney World and many other places. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also does not recommend using gaiters to protect against the coronavirus, as there is not enough research at this stage to recommend them.
However, a new study that has not yet been published found that we may have removed these tubular face coverings too quickly. The study, which came from the University of Georgia, used a protocol created by Duke University researchers (who used a laser to figure out which masks were best at preventing breath droplets from spreading) and improved it to what appeared to be the first actual one Face mask and neck gaiter study to create.
While the CDC doesn't recommend wearing neck gaiters to protect against COVID-19, a new study shows that they may be more effective than some cloth masks at preventing the spread of viruses. (Scott Winters / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
For the University of Georgia study, researchers used a 3D-printed box to reduce airborne particles, a class 1000 clean room, and a laser. The researchers had an adult male wear four best-selling two-layer cloth face masks from Amazon, five of the best single-layer neck gaiters from Amazon, and three multi-layer gaiters from Mission. Each face covering was tested three times.
During the test, the subject remained calm for 10 seconds and then said, "Stay healthy, folks" five times.
The results were surprising. The researchers found that one-layer gaiters produced an average 77 percent reduction in breath droplets compared to wearing them without a face mask. Two-layer face masks reduced breath droplets by 81 percent. Leggings made of two or three layers (polyester and elastane) reduced the breath droplets by 96 percent.
"The level of protection of a face covering seems to be largely dependent on the number and quality of the material layers and not on whether it is a gaiter or a mask," the authors of the study write.
Neck gaiters were first studied after Duke University's study suggested that some type of gaiter was not effectively blocking respiratory droplets and may even make the situation worse. (The study found that when someone wore a neck seal, the number of particles of saliva airborne increased slightly compared to no mask.) However, later on, one of the study's co-authors came forward to clarify what the results meant . "We didn't mean to say this mask didn't work or never use neck gaiters," Martin Fischer, associate professor at Duke, told the New York Times in mid-August. Variables like how loudly the wearer spoke and whether the mask got wet could have led to these results, he said.
Suraj Sharma, a professor of polymer, fiber and textile science at the University of Georgia and co-author of the latest study, tells Yahoo Life that he wants to investigate neck gaiters to clear up misunderstandings about the face coverings. "A tremendous amount of conflicting information about face coverings has been published in the past few months, leading many people to believe that gaiters offer little or no protection compared to masks," he says. "That made no sense to us. The type of material and the number of layers should determine the effectiveness of a face covering more than the form factor. We wanted to put this thesis to the test."
Sharma says he and his co-writer Tho Nguyen, a colleague at the University of Georgia, were "a little surprised" to see the layered gaiters outperform the face masks. “The results showed that whether there is a face covering like a mask behind your ears or a gaiter around your head like a mask, the respiratory droplet reduction is more dependent on the material and number of layers used than on the form factor or gaiter, ”he says.
Dr. Richard Watkins, an infectious disease doctor in Akron, Ohio, and a professor of internal medicine at Northeast Ohio Medical University who did not participate in the study, told Yahoo Life that it is "scientifically plausible" that layers are more than important the style of the masks. "The more layers, the better," he adds.
However, Watkins says, "More research is needed, particularly replication studies and studies that extract airborne particles in real-world environments before neck gaiters over masks can be recommended."
However, the tide can turn with neck gaiters. Preliminary results from a study conducted at Virginia Tech analyzed the effectiveness of a single-layer gaiter made from 100 percent polyester and a two-layer gaiter made from 87 percent polyester and 13 percent elastane. The researchers found that both gaiters stopped 100 percent of the very large 20-micron droplets and 50 percent of the one-micron aerosols. For smaller particles, the single-layer gaiter only blocked 10 percent of the 0.5 micron particles. The double-layer gaiter blocked 20 percent. When the researchers doubled the single-layer gaiter, it blocked more than 90 percent of all particles.
Sharma calls bans on neck gaiters "very unfortunate" in some areas, adding, "To fight this pandemic, we must encourage everyone to wear face coverings and excluding very popular face coverings is a mistake."
Sharma hopes his research will be another insight that can help change the CDC's stance on neck braces. "The CDC is just saying that they can't recommend gaiters yet because they haven't received enough data," he says. "That's partly why we wanted to study their effectiveness and make sure the public had as much evidence-based information in the market as possible."
If you are looking to purchase a neck seal, Sharma recommends finding one that is "either long enough to fold into two layers or made up of multiple layers". Just know that it may not be widely recognized as acceptable face coverage yet.
For the latest coronavirus news and updates, please visit According to experts, people over 60 and those with compromised immune systems remain at the greatest risk. If you have any questions, please see the CDC and WHO resource guides.
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