In recent weeks, face masks have sold in numbers never before seen in America or around the globe, with major retailers like Amazon and Walmart initially selling out of face masks for virus protection and brands ranging from Banana Republic to Victoria’s Secret selling non-medical cloth face masks. Which is great news and shows a responsible reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic, as experts from the WHO, the CDC, and beyond agree that wearing a cloth face covering can keep you safer against contracting the novel coronavirus (not to mention other illnesses transmitted from person to person via droplets expelled from the nose or mouth) and can limit the spread of sickness to others.
While medical grade masks like the N95 mask must be reserved for doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers, the cloth coverings made by many companies are far better than wearing nothing when you must be away from home these days.
Note the term there, though: face covering. You do not have to wear a product that is a dedicated face mask in order to do your part to stay safe and protect others during this time of sickness. Many types of face covering worn as a face mask can also help stop potentially infected droplets from reaching your nose or mouth and can limit your own potential spread of sickness.
So can a neck gaiter be used as a face mask?
It turns out that the answer is yes, absolutely.
In fact even sources as reputable as the United States Air Force have included neck gaiters in official statements discussing gear that can be used during the coronavirus epidemic, both to keep the wearer safer and to reduce potential transmission of illness to others.
But to use a neck gaiter as a face mask, you have to wear the covering properly. That means wearing a neck gaiter that covers your nose and mouth and fits snugly enough not to leave gaps where your own exhaled or sneezed droplets can escape or that those from others can gain entry. This also means regular and thorough washing of your neck gaiter used as a mask for coronavirus protection.
You should wash a neck gaiter or any other cloth face mask used for viral protection after each use, and make sure to wash your face covering with warm water and laundry detergent.
One reason gaiters make good face masks is that you may well already have several of you are an active multi-season athlete, fisher, or paddler. Also, a neck gaiter will continue to serve you well after the pandemic has passed and there is no longer a need for mask wearing at all times.
On the other hand, buying a dedicated cloth face mask for protection against virus might be your best move, as you can wear your reusable face mask for many days or even weeks even with regular washings and then ultimately discard or replace it, reserving your neck gaiter for use during sports or outdoor activities.
The choice there is yours, but the simple fact remains that you need to wear a face covering when in any close proximity to other members of the public these days, so investing in a neck gaiter or face mask you can use time and again is a must. If it turns out that the covering for your face to keep safe from sickness later turns out to be a best mask for running, a best neck gaiter for fishing, or a best gaiter for sports of any kind, that’s simply an added bonus.