By now, we should all be wearing a face covering in public because we know
that every time we speak, we emit respiratory droplets that can potentially
transmit COVID-19. However, if you’re wearing a gaiter instead of
a face mask, you may be doing more harm than good. A neck gaiter is a
thin tube of fabric that fits around the neck instead of the around the
ears like a mask and can easily be pulled up and down.
But are they as effective as face masks?
Research out of Duke University found that the neck gaiter transmits larger
respiratory droplets into multiple smaller droplets, which stay airborne
longer because large droplets sink faster. Basically, when you speak while
wearing a gaiter the droplets you produce become smaller and linger in
the air longer. Rather than preventing the droplets from escaping like
a face mask, the gaiter turns the larger droplets into a cloud of smaller
ones that hang in the air longer. This is because of the gaiter’s
Gaiters are typically made from a polyester or spandex material and are
intended for sun protection for outdoor activities like fishing. Their
light, stretchy material isn’t exactly ideal for fighting Coronavirus
because stretching an already thin material over your mouth makes it even
thinner. Therefore, the act of pulling the gaiter up over your face allows
particles to escape easier.
It’s important to note that this study only tested one type of neck
gaiter. With rising concerns about the gaiter’s ability to adequately
filter respiratory droplets, more studies will follow.
We suggest choosing a face covering made of thicker material or one with
multiple layers of fabric. The material of a gaiter is too thin to prevent
the spread of the virus. However, no matter what you choose it’s
important that you wear something to protect yourself and others!