Now everyone knows that masks help protect the people from getting COVID-19, but now researchers from the National Institutes of Health have added that the humidity created inside the mask may help combat respiratory diseases such as COVID-19.
Researchers in the NIH’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), found that face masks increase the humidity in the air that the mask-wearer breathes in. This higher level of humidity in inhaled air, results in hydration of the respiratory tract which is beneficial for immune system. The study is published in the Biophysical Journal.
The study’s lead author, Adriaan Bax, Ph.D., NIH Distinguished Investigator said, “We found that face masks strongly increase the humidity in inhaled air and propose that the resulting hydration of the respiratory tract could be responsible for the documented finding that links lower COVID-19 disease severity to wearing a mask. High levels of humidity have been shown to mitigate severity of the flu, and it may be applicable to severity of COVID-19 through a similar mechanism”.
High levels of humidity can reduce the spread of a virus to the lungs by promoting mucociliary clearance (MCC), a defense mechanism that removes mucus and harmful particles within the mucus − from the lungs.
High levels of humidity can also boost the immune system by producing special proteins, called interferons, that fight against viruses.
The study tested four common types of masks:
- N95 mask
- Three-ply disposable surgical mask
- Two-ply cotton-polyester mask
- Heavy cotton mask
The researchers measured the level of humidity by having a volunteer breathe into a sealed steel box. The results showed that all four masks increased the level of humidity of inhaled air, but the thick cotton mask led to the most increased level of humidity at all temperatures.
But the researchers did not look at which masks are most effective against the spread of virus and defer to the CDC for guidance on choosing a mask.
NIDDK Director Dr. Griffin P. Rodgers said, “This research supports the importance of mask-wearing as a simple, yet effective, way to protect the people around us and to protect ourselves from respiratory infection, especially during these winter months when susceptibility to these viruses increases”.
You can read more details here.