Skip to Navigation Skip to Search Skip to Content
Search All Centers

A Cancer Patient's Guide to Masks

Read Transcript

Published on July 2, 2020

A Cancer Patient's Guide to Masks

Experts have advised that wearing a mask is a best practice for reducing the spread of COVID-19. But, what types of masks should higher-risk cancer patients wear to protect themselves? What is the proper way to clean and sanitize? With so many different types available, from surgical, fabric to professional-grade N95 masks, how should people living with cancer decide which one is best for them?

In this Answers Now program, host Esther Schorr gets the patient perspective from chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) patient advocate Lynne Perman Schneider. Lynne talks about her experience being 15 miles away from "ground zero" NYC and the types of masks she is wearing. They discuss the various types of masks that are available with advanced practice nurse, Summer Krain from the UAMS Myeloma Center. What are the pros and cons of each mask type? Should you wear a surgical mask or will a fabric masks work? Are N95 masks the best mask for people living with cancer? When you've decided on what type of mask is appropriate for you, how do you properly wash and store it so it stays sanitized? In this Answers Now segment, you'll also learn what types of masks cancer patients should NOT to wear. Watch now to learn more!

As with a lot of coronavirus news, this topic is ever-evolving and if we didn't get to your questions during the live program, they were saved and will be covered in a follow-up program.

Featuring

Transcript | A Cancer Patient's Guide to Masks

Esther Schorr:
Hi there. Good morning, good afternoon, good evening, wherever you are. This is Esther Schorr and welcome to our Answers Now program. Our Answers Now series, really focuses on current issues for cancer patients. A couple of weeks ago, we had a conversation about mask-wearing and what to do if you have a hard time with other people telling you, "You shouldn't be wearing a mask." It was a conversation about those issues.

Today's program is a follow-up. And what we're going to talk about are the types of masks that work, the ones that don't work. We're going to talk about whether they protect you or don't protect you or protect others. We're going to get into a deep dive about those masks. So joining me today, and they've both already joined me are Summer Krain and Lynne Perman Schneider.

Summer is an advanced practice nurse from the UAMS Myeloma Center in Little Rock, Arkansas. Welcome Summer. You're our resident expert today on masks. And Lynne is a CLL patient advocate from the New York area. And really appreciate both of you joining me. Here's where I'd like to start. Let's start with you Lynne. If I understand it correctly, you were diagnosed in mid 2019 with CLL and you're in that watch and wait period. You live not so far from the epicenter in Manhattan where this pandemic really exploded in the US. And then I know that things have not exactly gone the way that we would like it, and that there are more and more cases - over 34,000 cases in your county of Westchester. How are you feeling about that? What are you seeing? What's going where you live?

Lynne Schneider:
Well at the beginning, it was extremely frightening, like it was to everybody who is part of this pandemic. New York, we were very lucky. Our governor really worked very hard to get our state really as safe as it could be. Right now, I live in a suburb of New York City and our numbers are low. With that being said, we lost over 1,600 people in my county and the numbers, we've had over 35,000 cases. I personally quarantined, I am still in quarantine, I have not been to any supermarkets. I go out for walks to parks, but I have not been anywhere since March 18th.

Esther Schorr:
So to be clear what we hear in the news is that Manhattan, New York City, is the epicenter. But if I know my geography a little bit, Westchester is like 15, 20 miles outside of that. So even there, you're seeing a lot of cases and a lot of issues. Are people wearing masks where you are?

Lynne Schneider:
You know, I have not been into stores. I know our stores are requiring masks. All the stores in New York, from what I understand from my friends, require them. When I go out to a park, I notice a lot of people are not. And that was even a month ago when we were in the sort of middle. I would say it's 50/50. That frightens me. That really frightens me.

Esther Schorr:
Understandably. That's kind of where we are. We're in Southern California, not in Los Angeles, proper where it's been, not quite New York city, but it's been heavily hit. And I would say where we are, we're in a beach community, it's less than that. We've got maybe 20%, 30% of people that we see walking around and we're still sort of semi quarantine.

We're very athletic, so when we bike together, my husband and I, we have a mask with us, but we're not wearing them when we're actually biking. But when we come across anybody in that situation, our mask goes on and we're always wearing them when we're out walking and very limited exposure in stores.

But unfortunately, we're seeing the same thing you are that it's not universally accepted practice, which is a little frightening, especially for cancer patients. So tell me a little bit about the mask that you wear when you do go out. Do you feel protected by it? What does it look like? Do you have that with you?

Lynne Schneider:
Because I'm not going into stores, like you, I power walk and I do outdoor activity, I usually bring the mask with me and if somebody passes me, I put it on. It's not a great mask. It's a polyester, blue mask. It does have a little insert for a filter, which I don't have because I'm so confused about filters and which filter to use. And then of course I have my pretty mask because I'm an animal advocate. So I have my dog mask, naturally. I know neither one of these are giving me much protection.

Esther Schorr:
Well, I think we're going to talk about that. What is the protection? And that's why we'll talk with Summer. So if you could just kind of say, what are your concerns right now? It sounds like you're doing the main things that you probably should be doing is awareness that when you go out, you should be wearing some measure of protection and distancing. And you want to know what kind of mask, when you go out, what it should be made of, where you should be wearing it. Any other things that we should make sure we address? Because I'm sure your questions are the same as many of the people watching.

Lynne Schneider:
I just want to feel, I want to start going back to some of the smaller supermarkets. I have been doing so much Instacart and Peapod. I want to feel a grapefruit. Before I go out there, I know that these masks are not giving me the protection that I need with CLL. Even though I'm in wait and watch, I really want to know what is the best protection that I can have?

Esther Schorr:
So Summer, you're an advanced practice nurse at UAMS Myeloma Center. So you spend a lot of time with cancer patients. And you're also doing a lot of education about masks. I think probably what would be great is if we spend some time going over mask basics, so that everybody's on the same page. Let's start with, does a mask protect me from contracting COVID-19? Or does it just prevent me from spreading it? Why don't we just start with that basic premise.

Summer Krain:
That will really depend upon which mask you're wearing. If you have an N95 that is going to protect you. But if you're wearing a general cloth mask, then it's going to be more for protecting the others from you. It's important to remember that.

Esther Schorr:
Okay. So maybe when we look at these different kinds of masks, let's be sure that we point out which one is a dual protection and which one is more, just a barrier to make sure that we're not passing something on, if say we're asymptomatic or symptomatic. Right?

Summer Krain:
Yes.

Esther Schorr:
Okay. So can you explain why the mask protects the user less than the outside person? Like someone without a mask? A lot of people are saying, "Why do I need to wear a mask? I don't have symptoms. I'm not getting near anybody.” Why wear it?

Summer Krain:
It keeps the respiratory droplets from spreading. The virus tends to need a vehicle to spread. And when we talk, sneeze, cough, or do anything, this is how the virus spreads or how bacteria or any kind of cooties get out. So, if you've got a barrier there, that is going to lessen the spread of that. That in itself is creating a barrier. And so you want to have a mask that has a good quality weave so that these droplets cannot get through. So the material needs to be a nice tightly woven, but breathable material that you can still breathe in, but will trap the respiratory droplets.

Esther Schorr:
Okay. So it really is not only protecting you to some extent if other people are wearing them and it doesn't let stuff through. But if you're wearing it, like if I sneeze and I'm wearing a mask... The reality is with these masks, I would think you're also potentially protecting yourself and others from other bugs that are out there.

Summer Krain:
Right.

Esther Schorr:
We're coming into flu season, et cetera.

Summer Krain:
My patients have been wearing masks long before COVID came around. They've been doing this for a long time. It's just for other people, it's a little different, they're having a little harder time accepting, I think. [inaudible] outside the box that people need to protect each other. And so if we both wear masks, then you cut down that transmission.

Esther Schorr:
Okay. What about gloves? We'll focus on masks, but a lot of people are asking, "Well, should I be wearing gloves too?"

Summer Krain:
Gloves are not necessary. You would have to change them in between any kind of interaction. I see people wearing gloves and then touching and touching and touching and touching. You would have to wash your hands every time. And that's just not, it's not going to work.

Esther Schorr:
So when you go out washing your hands before and after - better idea?

Summer Krain:
Absolutely. Or a hand gel, a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, having that in like a little bottle of that with you would be much more effective. If you touch your mask, you need to sanitize because that mask is coming into contact with anything that's been blown your way with your respiratory effort. And you then touch it and it's on your hands. So then you touch your eyes or scratch your face. So those kinds of things, you then defeated the purpose of the mask. The mask only serves its purpose if it's part of your toolkit. And your toolkit is good hand sanitizer, washing your hands, social distance and the mask, altogether. And to not forget that it doesn't take the place of those other things as well.

Esther Schorr:
Right. Okay. And then before we get to all the different kinds of masks, what about kids? I've noticed that some people are wearing masks and then their children aren't, and then some are. Should kids be wearing a mask? And then we'll talk about the type of mask, if so.

Summer Krain:
Kids definitely need to wear a mask if you can get them to keep them on. I know some of them [inaudible] probably be hard. Less than two, do not need to have a mask. They're not old enough to tell you that it's obstructing breathing. It would be unwise. The CDC and the World Health Organization say under two is prohibited. Don't do it. However, they need to have a mask that's similar to what we're wearing, cotton, breathable, couple of layers of fabric. You could use the filters. They just need to learn how to not touch them. And that is teaching. And so you just have to reinforce it. I think that with a child it'll be harder. And then hand sanitizer.

Esther Schorr:
Right, exactly. And we’ll get into now about how to put on and take off a mask. So I think we've kind of got the basics of mask 101. Let's get into some specifics. I have my little handy dandy mask visual aids here. What I'm thinking is, these are a variety of masks that my husband and partner, Andrew and I, have tried out and have done some research on.

I think we'll use them as props, we'll go through them in terms of maybe the least effective to the most effective and somewhere in between. But let's start with this really lovely presentation. Apparently, some people call it the Cambridge mask. I didn't know about this, I just found out from our producer. And we called it the Darth Vader mask. And it looks like Darth Vader because it's got these little air holes that I was told were filters. But in reality, they're holes in the filter and yeah, I can breathe, but tell me why this is not a good idea.

Summer Krain:
They're actually exhalation valves where they allow you to breathe a little easier by allowing your exhalation effort to be unfiltered. So you're breathing out unfiltered air, which means you are the defeating the purpose of masking, altogether. And they're actually prohibited in some places. If you go some places with this on, they will ask you to take them off and give you probably a mask that looks like this.

Esther Schorr:
And we'll talk about this. I will actually tell you Summer, that my husband, who's a two-time cancer survivor, he goes once a month to get IVIG. And he had this mask that was given to him sweetly by our son, who thought it was a great mask, and they wouldn't let him in. They gave him a surgical mask and said, "No, this isn't going to work."

Summer Krain:
Right.

Esther Schorr:
So kind of frustrating, but so don't spend your money on those. Okay. And then how about one of these? This is just kind of a silky polyester, but it's a bandana. And I see tons of people doing this. And then when they're not around people, they pull it down. What about something like that?

Summer Krain:
It's a very loose fit, and it's not really doing what it's designed to do. You actually can make a mask out of that, if you have some elastic and you wrap it around and fold it correctly.

Esther Schorr:
So it's kind of this thing?

Summer Krain:
Yeah. And you can do a mask, it would have to be done correctly depending upon what it's made of. If it's a tightly woven fabric it can be done. But it has to be folded several times. And it has to be tightly fitted over the mouth and chin. And you have to be able to breathe through it. Some of those fabrics are so tightly woven that when you fold them and you put them against your mouth, you can't breathe. So you don't want to do that. Some of this stuff looks great, but when you actually put it into use, it's not usable.

Esther Schorr:
Is there kind of an easy test to know whether, if I have a bunch of these and I thought, "Oh, I'll sew masks out of them." Is there a simple test to know whether the fabric is tightly woven enough to do that?

Summer Krain:
You can hold it up to the light.

Esther Schorr:
Okay.

Summer Krain:
You can hold a light up to it, even a flashlight.

Esther Schorr:
Okay. So I have one like that.

Summer Krain:
This one has only one layer. Harold was kind enough to share this with me, that he spent a lot of money on apparently. It's only one layer and if you hold it up to the light, you can almost see through it. And so we know that this fabric is too widely woven. So the wider the weave, the more molecules can get through. It's not going to do its job. It definitely needs several layers, if not something completely different, to make this effective. It's cute, but it doesn't do what it needs to do.

Esther Schorr:
Yeah. Well, there's a lot of ads out now that I'm seeing for make your mask a fashion statement.

Summer Krain:
Right.

Esther Schorr:
I mean, we have a few like that just to try them out, but it sounds like you need to have another layer in there, whether it's a filter or an extra layer of padding to have it be worth anything.

Summer Krain:
Right.

Esther Schorr:
Okay. We're getting a lot of questions about these guys. And I will tell you, I had to borrow this because Andrew and I made a point of not purchasing N95 masks. And we're going to talk about why. But talk to me about why this works, why N95, and maybe that's what you have as well.

Summer Krain:
I have an N95 as well. This is a [inaudible]. This is my N95. [inaudible] only. The reason why these masks are so important is they filter out... First of all, they're regulated by the NIOSH, National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety. And they are strictly regulated so we know that they filter out 95% particulates, less than 100 nanometers in size. Sorry, I had to write that down.

And what's important about them is they are made in three layers. The outer layer is a hydrophilic, which means if they get blood splashed or fluid or respiratory secretion splashed on them, they repel. The inner layer is made out of the melt blown, special filter that filters out 95% of these particles. And then the interior is an absorbent, so that your respiratory secretions are absorbed, and it doesn't get wet. It's actually a very complex mask.

The reason why these are important is these are what our healthcare users are using to treat these patients. And they are in very short supply.

Esther Schorr:
Why? In months will we all get them?

Summer Krain:
Part of it is supply and demand. There are a finite amount of companies that produce these in the world because the technology for the inner filter is so complex that, I think there's like 12 or 15 companies in the world that make it. They ramped their production up 200%, but there are so many cases of COVID in the world and the usage of these. We have health care workers having to reuse single use N95s, which is not good. Because they're really meant for a one-time use. They shouldn't be worn for longer than eight hours. Eight to 12 hours is what they say. If they get dirty or wet or you have to remove them, you should throw them away.

Esther Schorr:
So you can't wash these.

Summer Krain:
No.

Esther Schorr:
Okay. So, there's short supply in production, but there's also, unlike some of these others that you can throw in the wash and they're not quite as effective, once these guys get wet or splashed or whatever... So why do you only have one?

Summer Krain:
I was fit tested. The other thing is, you have to be fit tested.

Esther Schorr:
What does that mean?

Summer Krain:
This means that there are several kinds. Yours looks different than mine, but they're both N95s. And everybody's face is different shaped. And so you have to go in and you actually have to be tested to make sure that it actually fits your face appropriately. It's a very tight seal. Very tight seal. And when they fit test you, they put a hood on you and they put particulate matter that's fine enough that it could seep in the sides, if it doesn't fit.

Esther Schorr:
Okay.

Summer Krain:
[inaudible] tasting, it tastes kind of sweet. And you have to kind of march in place and say these things and make sure you breathe and walk around and make sure that you don't taste what they've pumped into this little air hood that you have on your head. It's kind of a crazy looking thing we have to do.

But the reason why I find it a little worrisome that people outside have these on is that they have a false sense of protection. They think that this is protecting them 100% or 95% when they haven't been fit tested.

Esther Schorr:
So if I put this on like this, I would theoretically say, okay, it's got the little metal thing. I put it around my nose around here. But I haven't been fit tested. It might be protecting me some maybe better than a single piece of fabric, but it's still is not the end all be all.

Summer Krain:
Sure.

Esther Schorr:
Unless your fitted for it.

Summer Krain:
Yes.

Esther Schorr:
Okay. So then there is some question... Sorry, my glasses are, we’re going to talk about glasses getting fogged up with these things. We'll talk about that. So, difference between an N95 and an N99, I guess there are different-

Summer Krain:
It’s a higher amount of filtration.

Esther Schorr:
Okay.

Summer Krain:
So N99 is supposed to filter out almost 99% of the particulate matter. So the filter inside is a little tighter woven.

Esther Schorr:
Oh, sorry. I'm being corrected an R99. Do you know about that?

Summer Krain:
I think it's the same. There are some European standards they have imported, we've been allowed to use because of the shortage here in the United States. I think they've allowed us to use some overseas masks that have similar standards to ours.

Esther Schorr:
So that might be what that is.

Summer Krain:
I think that's what that is.

Esther Schorr:
Okay. What I'm getting from this discussion about these really, medical grade masks, is that they will probably do the very best job that we have right now, short of gas masks.

Summer Krain:
Right.

Esther Schorr:
But they're in such short supply that the most vulnerable people right now really are the healthcare workers that are working with people who are already sick, and that they're the ones that should really be... That's really where they should go. What would you say to people who are watching here are saying, "Well, I'm a patient I'm concerned, I want to wear this too. Why shouldn't I?" Playing devil's advocate here.

Summer Krain:
Yeah. And I'm sure there are people that are thinking that. With social distancing, with safe behavior, like quarantine and staying out of large gatherings and wearing masks, these other masks-

Esther Schorr:
Which we're going to talk about now. Yes.

Summer Krain:
...when you have to go out you are taking your risk down. If your healthcare workers disappear because they don't have these masks and they get sick, then they can't be there to take care of you.

Esther Schorr:
They can't distance. They can't social distance.

Summer Krain:
They have to go into the hospitals and take care of people every day.

Esther Schorr:
Got it.

Summer Krain:
Their risk is always. They have to go in. And they choose the job to do it. But it would be terrible if nobody had what they needed to do their job.

Esther Schorr:
Well, I will tell you with all that explanation, this was given to me to use for today's program, by one of our producers. And I'm going to encourage her to donate this to a healthcare worker. Just so you know. Not holding onto that one and I'm not selling it on eBay. Okay. So that helps. And hopefully there's some ramping up going on internationally to make more of those masks to help healthcare workers. That would be the ideal.

Summer Krain:
Yes. There are. I think there is a big effort to make the production to go up. For sure.

Esther Schorr:
Okay. So let's talk about this little diddy. The one I have looks like yours. It does have the little metal something. It's almost like a pipe cleaner that goes over. I guess, that's to help, I'm going to be the novice here, to help it fit more closely around your face.

Summer Krain:
Pinch it to the top of your nose.

Esther Schorr:
Okay. And then you pull this down and around.

Summer Krain:
Close as possible.

Esther Schorr:
Okay.

Summer Krain:
Perfect.

Esther Schorr:
Okay. So talk to me about how effective these are and when you would use them. And then we'll talk about where to get them.

Summer Krain:
Okay. So these are medical masks, surgical masks. These are respirators. N95s are also called respirators. These are medical masks or surgical masks, what they're referred to. They should be used by healthcare professionals and should also be used by people who may have to go into facilities for treatment, or if you are a cancer patient, or if you're over 65, I think CDC says 60, and may have comorbidities that make you more susceptible to the virus or maybe complications from the virus.

These masks are important because they provide maybe a little more protection because they have three layers of fabric or material that have a filter in the middle and it is a little more so protection wise than maybe a cloth mask. The outside is more of, repels liquids. It's not going to soak up any kind of respiratory droplets that may come into contact with-

Esther Schorr:
So the blue goes on the outside.

Summer Krain:
On the outside.

Esther Schorr:
Okay.

Summer Krain:
And then the inner portion is a filter. And then the interior part that's white is absorbent. So it absorbs the respiratory secretions of the patient that's wearing it or the person that's wearing it so that they're less likely to put them out. It has a little more effectiveness, I think. However, it's not going to keep you from passing. It's not going to protect you from the virus, if someone is wearing this, if they have the virus.

Esther Schorr:
Okay. Are there different grades of these? Like the one I'm looking at, the one I have, I think is what you have. It looks like it is definitely more than one layer. And I can see through it, but are there different grades of these? Because I know you can get them at CVS, there's boxes of them and then, Medical Supply.

Summer Krain:
There's some that I've seen that looked like they're just paper. They honestly look like they're like one little flimsy piece of paper. That is not going to protect you at all. I think they need to say that they're medical grade.

Esther Schorr:
Okay. So it should say on it, medical... And we have to trust that if it's promoted as medical grade, that it is.

Summer Krain:
That's the other thing. I think that there has been some fraudulent people out there putting out things that aren't medical grade.

Esther Schorr:
I have walked into my local Rite Aid and they are selling boxes of 50 of these for, I don't know, it's still outrageous, but you know, $20 a box or $25 or $50 on Amazon. What are reliable sources to buy these or get hold of them? Do you know?

Summer Krain:
I would think a medical supply company, but I also think that these really should be-

Esther Schorr:
Not everybody.

Summer Krain:
Not everybody needs to buy these. Because these also in short supply. If you go to the doctor, they will give you one. And so going to the doctor that you wear your mask cloth mask there, they can give you one while you're there. There might be a way, that to me is a way to conserve the use of these.

Esther Schorr:
Can they be washed?

Summer Krain:
No.

Esther Schorr:
Can you rinse them out? It doesn't help? Nope?

Summer Krain:
One time use - that's the other thing, is I see people using these multiple. And I also see, and I'm going to use my one that's been used because this is a good one. This thing that I see people doing all the time. Talking like this and then putting it back on and then talking like this and moving it around. Every time you touch this mask, you are defeating the purpose. You're spreading the germs that you've breathed through that filter. So really it's very important that mask etiquette should be like to touch it only from the loops. And then when you remove it, loops and drop it in.

Esther Schorr:
Get rid of it. Okay.

Summer Krain:
Wash your hands immediately.

Esther Schorr:
Wash your hands. Okay. One other question about these, and then we're going to move on to some alternatives for sort of everyday use for walking around and that kind of thing. Somebody has asked, is there a difference between the blue ones like this and I guess there's some yellow medical masks out there?

Summer Krain:
You know, I don't think there is. I think they're just the same. In the hospital, we use them interchangeably. I do know in the hospital we have a pink one that is more substantial. It's a little thicker and it's got like a foam, and actually comes with a shield and it's got, I think it's a little higher filtration on it. But you don't see those out in the public. In fact, I don't even see those in the hospital anymore. We don't have them anymore. We're out of those.

Esther Schorr:
All right. Let's try to remember a little bit later. Maybe we'll talk a little bit about eye protection. I can ask you this though. With any of these masks, there's the typical thing, if I put this on or any of them, and I have these big old honking glasses and I can't see anything without them. And I breathe, I don't know if I can do it on demand, but-

Summer Krain:
[inaudible 00:34:12].

Esther Schorr:
Yeah. The old putting your head in the oven thing. What do we do if we wear glasses and our glasses get fogged up? Any suggestions?

Summer Krain:
I've been told if you wash your glasses with a little bit of soap and water and rinse them, that helps. I haven't tried that yet.

Esther Schorr:
You know what? It occurs to me, I'm a scuba diver. And when you have your masks that you wear, they tell you to use either a little toothpaste or spit or a little bit of soapy water and you put it on the inside and you dive. And that seems to keep the fogging away.

Summer Krain:
That's what I've been told by others. I just haven't tried it myself.

Esther Schorr:
You don't wear glasses. But I'm always like-

Summer Krain:
I wear readers, so.

Esther Schorr:
You know the story. Let's move on now to cloth masks. What I'm getting is that the surgical masks, they are an option for people, but they need to be medical grade. And they really should only be used in a very high-risk situation. Like when you go to the doctor, they'll probably give you one. Or if you have somebody in your family maybe who is isolated and you're having to take care of them, those kinds of things.

Summer Krain:
Absolutely.

Esther Schorr:
But then there's the rest of us for rest of life. There are the old, I had to be fashionable. I made a homemade mask, which I discovered is so thick that I can't breathe, but it has the idea and it goes around the back like this. So that's one, it's like two or three layers with some folds in it. And you can't see through it. It's problem from what I'm hearing is it's hard to breathe. And then I managed to find this one online that goes underneath, goes up like this, it's double fabric and it has-

Summer Krain:
A pocket.

Esther Schorr:
It has a pocket for a filter. I guess my question is, how do we choose between that with a filter in it, here's another fashionista one, can't see through it, but it's only two layers. And then the one that I can't breathe, but it probably works pretty well because it covers everything, including almost my eyes? Help us sort this out.

Summer Krain:
Okay. The thing about fabric for a mask is you have to be able to breathe. That's important. We want it to filter, but we have to be able to go about life. If you can't breathe, you lose the point. The fabric that probably works the best is the cotton quilters kind of fabric. This one's made out of that. It is double-sided. Actually, it's triple. It's got this very thin fabric, but it's very tightly woven, but it also has this third inner spot where you can put a filter in.

Esther Schorr:
That's the third layer? So you have outside, inside and inside is a filter?

Summer Krain:
Mm-hmm.

Esther Schorr:
Okay.

Summer Krain:
And so this was homemade by someone and then they have an elastic loop. The thing that you want to be careful with is how wide or how open the weave is, or if it's tight weave like this is perhaps, it's stretchy. So if you stretch weave, it opens those spots so that it makes everything easier to get through. And this one is a crummy mask because it's only one layer and it's not... I bought it at the store. It was at Kroger in there.

And unfortunately, there's a lot of masks out there that you can't really tell by the pictures what they are. Some of them do advertise that they have double layers or triple layers, or they have silver ion technology incorporated. I was looking, I was really impressed, but some of these things are $20, $30 a piece. They’re really expensive. They don't have to be that expensive. They can be just regular quilter's cotton.

You wash them after. I would say, if you wear it all day, you should wash it each time you wear it in a hot water. I would get one for each day and you would have a Monday mask, Tuesday mask, Wednesday mask, Thursday mask, you know? And then you know, I wore that one Monday. And you put it in a bag, you wash it, dry it in high heat, put it in a bag and you know that it's clean.

Esther Schorr:
So storing it. You're saying that once something is worn, it's washed and it goes in, are you talking about just like a baggie. And you can put it in and that's a clean mask.

Summer Krain:
Yes. Once it's worn, it needs to be washed.

Esther Schorr:
Okay. I don't know if this, it may help people. With what you're describing, it feels as though this one of all the ones, the cloth ones I bought, is about as close as I'm going to get. It's got the two layers it's not open weave and it came with a couple of filters. And actually, I don't mind because this has to be washed. I don't want to take too much time here. It's got a removable filter in it. Sorry?

Summer Krain:
You want to take that filter out when you wash it. Because [crosstalk 00:39:49] disposable.

Esther Schorr:
Right. Is there a particular kind of filter? I mean, if this is what came with it and what it says on it is PM 2.5. I don't know what that means.

Summer Krain:
I don't either. I'm not an expert on the filters. I can tell you that the carbon filters are not going to filter a virus. They're not made for virus filtering. They can filter a large particulate matter like pollen and dust, and things of that... The filter, if it's a HEPA filter, but it needs to be a genuine HEPA filter. Not HEPA like. Like what's in the vacuums.

Esther Schorr:
Well, I heard that some people were taking vacuum bags-

Summer Krain:
Cutting them?

Esther Schorr:
... cutting them up. Is that a thing? Does that make sense?

Summer Krain:
You can do it as long as they're not fiberglass. You want to make sure what that filter is made of. You don't want to be breathing something you're not supposed to breathe. I would probably frown against that just because, that's not intended. I wouldn't want to do that.

Esther Schorr:
There's one other area I want to touch on is like and then we can kind of summarize it. It sounds like with short supply of the surgical masks, we talk about wearing those in the high-risk areas, a cancer patient, survivor or somebody who's in close proximity to people who are at risk, that a good multilayer, cloth mask, ideally with a safe filter would be a good thing to use.

Summer Krain:
Yes.

Esther Schorr:
Has to be washed daily and then put in something to keep it clean.

Summer Krain:
Yes.

Esther Schorr:
Okay. But when should we be wearing those? Is this whenever we go anywhere outside at all? Or just when we're going to be in close proximity? Like if I go out for a walk and there's nobody around, do I need to wear the mask?

Summer Krain:
Okay. So that's the other thing. If you're walking out and it's not crowded, hopefully. Some of our walking trails I've seen have been ridiculously crowded. If you're exercising, you don't need to wear a mask. That's going to put respiratory stress on you while you're exercising. I don't think that anybody agrees that you should have a mask on during exercise.

If you're in close contact with people, you need to have a mask on. Social distancing, if you cannot keep safe social distancing, you should have a mask on. Many grocery stores and places like that, if you go at off-peak times, most of the lines, they're keeping them long and spaced out. They're limiting the numbers of people in the store at one time. The larger the room you're in, is a better thing as well. Enclosed areas, you should be masked. It's kind of a commonsense thing. If you're going to be in close contact, I would have a mask and have it ready.

 One other myth bust. One thing I want you to clarify before we bring Lynne back is that there is some question out there and some people are saying, "We're going to get killed by wearing masks. We are breathing our own bad air and that they're not really good for us. And that it's all a ruse." Is this true?

Summer Krain:
No. First of all, you're able to get your airs passing through that mask. It's not impermeable. You're not infecting yourself with anything. That is a complete myth. The whole carbon dioxide and breathing your old carbon dioxide, that's not happening either. Because these masks, you can breathe through them. If you can't breathe through them, you shouldn't be wearing them. If wearing a mask makes you have respiratory distress, you shouldn't wear it. That is an issue.

There are some people with COPD, there are people that have health problems, breathing issues, and they may not be able to wear a mask. That's a fact. But if you can wear one, it's a good thing to do. It's going to slow the spread of this virus and it's going to protect each other.

Esther Schorr:
Okay. One other last question, I promise we'll bring Lynne back, is face shields. I've started to see some people that are not only wearing a mask, but they've got like a baseball cap or a brim and they've got plastic over them.

Summer Krain:
I don't know that that is necessary. If you are keeping a good social distance from someone, you're fine. Practicing social distancing, washing your hands, doing that and wearing a mask should be enough. If you were doing a procedure that's generating lots of... If you're in a healthcare setting, yeah, you're going to wear all that stuff. But you shouldn't have to wear that in day to day life.

Esther Schorr:
Lynne, is your head just swimming with information about masks?

Lynne Schneider:
Yeah.

Esther Schorr:
Did Summer answer at least some of your questions?

Lynne Schneider:
Yes. My head is swimming, that was incredible. I feel like I can be the New York expert up here now with masks, maybe. But I do have one question. With those filters that you put into the masks, the one that Esther has. How often does that filter need to be changed? Do you know?

Esther Schorr:
Good question.

Summer Krain:
I think each use. Daily.

Esther Schorr:
Wow.

Summer Krain:
[inaudible 00:47:07] that you use for a long time. Unless they say otherwise, from what I'm gathering, I think they're a single-use kind of filter.

Esther Schorr:
Yeah. The ones I got it said at least every few uses or once a week.

Lynne Schneider:
Okay.

Esther Schorr:
It doesn't seem like it's quite an exact science at this point.

Summer Krain:
Right. And I also think if they get wet, that's another thing is, I didn't say that. If your mask, if you're wearing a mask and it gets wet, you need to change it.

Esther Schorr:
Okay. So Lynne, what do you want our audience to take away from this program? And I'm going to ask Summer the same thing.

Lynne Schneider:
I want people really to share this news as much as possible. I know my children call me neurotic and they call me all crazy. And my son is listening right now. So he's probably laughing. I know they're in their 30s and they've been really good about quarantining and staying safe. But I want the public really to know this. I think we as cancer patients know this, we're speaking to us. But I really want other people.

I think the information you gave us was really very, very good. I know for me living here, I'm going to still quarantine. My doctor said until there's a vaccine that is reliable, that nothing is going to be 100% safe. That's how I'm going. But, I do want to go out and start living a little bit. I do. So I definitely learned from you.

Esther Schorr:
Thank you, Summer.

Lynne Schneider:
My blue mask, and my doggy mask. I actually held up to the light while you was speaking and I could see through my little dog a little bit. But I really think that it was really, really helpful.

Esther Schorr:
Oh, good. Thank you, Lynne.

Lynne Schneider:
Thank you.

Esther Schorr:
Thank you for your perspective on this. So, Summer, take away from everything that we've talked about. I think you've summarized a couple of times, but what's the key message here for mostly patients in their care partners that are listening today?

Summer Krain:
Just to wear a mask, remember to protect each other, that it's so important to do it for one another and not just for yourself and that N95s are for hospital workers, please. Remember that we need to keep those for frontline workers. And probably the biggest thing is don't touch your mask while you're wearing it. Hands off.

Esther Schorr:
I'm going to have to remember that one because I like to make sure that I-

Summer Krain:
You like to touch it. It's just on your face. But don't touch your mask.

Esther Schorr:
Okay. Well, I just want to thank both of you for this really. It was a lively and informative conversation. And I want to thank all of you for joining us today. I'm Esther Schorr, and please remember that knowledge and masks can be the best medicine of all.


Recommended Programs: