Aerosol scientist: Saline masks and cleansers may have lasting value beyond COVID-19

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With COVID-19 taking cover and entering a near complete retreat across the United States, Americans are throwing caution – and masks – to the wind. But many are still nervous and wonder: how to protect ourselves in this new normal?

At the beginning of May, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) fall masking requirements both outside and inside, in most cases for fully vaccinated people – that is, those who have received two doses of the vaccine Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines. On June 10, the agency expanded this applies to public transport and external public transport hubs.

So this is it? Are masks no longer necessary for fully vaccinated people?

“Wearing a mask here in the United States and around the world is quite associated in the public mind with public safety, and there is real uncertainty as to who is vaccinated and who is not.” said Dr David Edwards, an aerosol expert at Harvard. University.

According to Edwards, the general public is missing half of the message about the importance of masking.

“There really is a fundamental lack of public understanding of how viruses are spread, and this is leading to confusion around wearing masks,” he said. “Masks have two functions. One is to prevent airborne particles from moving from the air to our lungs and from our lungs to the air. This function is well known. The other is to hydrate our upper respiratory tract. It is much less known. Without this understanding, the motivation to wear the mask is weakened. “

It turns out that masks help cultivate the humidified environment our airways need to stay healthy.

“Your upper respiratory tract is responsible for humidifying the air you breathe. Once the air enters your lungs it should be 100% saturated with water and when you breathe in low humidity air it hydrates in the upper respiratory tract and pulls the water out of the mucus for it. make. When the air is really dry, it thins the mucus and this has a lot of negative consequences.

Like cold and flu season, which will be here in a few months.

“I guess COVID-19 introduced the wearing of a mask as part of human hygiene. A lot of people will choose not to wear masks and some will choose to wear masks, but I think it’s going to be more and more about personal hygiene, ”Edwards said.

He added that in order for the masks to serve the primary purpose, they must be securely attached.

“Even when you are wearing a really effective mask, if the seal is not really tight around your face, the natural propensity of air is to move around the mask, so those small droplets that are of most concern do move. just around the mask. “

According to Edwards, 80 to 90% of the particles we breathe are less than a micron.

We are also carrying out real-time data experimentation on the longevity of vaccine protection.

Recently, researchers at the Francis Crick Institute in London published a study in the lancet showing that individuals fully vaccinated with two doses of the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine had six-fold weaker antibodies against the Delta variant. As of June 18, this variant accounted for 10% of all COVID-19 cases in the United States, but CDC director Dr Rochelle Walensky told Good Morning America on the same day that she expects it. that she becomes the dominant strain in “the matter of a month or two.”

While antibodies don’t tell the whole story of the body’s immune response to a virus, this is one more reason for older people and those with vulnerable immune systems to be cautious.

Given the mask mandates loose, and with only 45.3% of American adults fully vaccinated, it may be prudent to have some other form of protection. This could take the form of a saline cleanser given intranasally to the upper respiratory tract.

More than two thirds of the Earth is covered with oceans. As such, humans have breathed sea salts for thousands of years, and they are essential for the health of our lungs.

“Salts extract water from the cells that line our airways, keeping them sufficiently hydrated while adding moisture to the air inhaled. If you put those salts back into your upper airways, you rehydrate the lungs and get rid of those respiratory droplets, ”Edwards explained. “Cleansing your airways is turning out to be a very natural thing, and it’s something we’ve learned to do a lot better because of the pandemic.”

Edwards has also sounded the alarm bells on the superspreaders events. In a study of 194 healthy volunteers at two sites in North Carolina and Michigan, Edwards and his co-investigators found a significant link between body mass index (BMI), advanced age and production of aerosols.

“As you get older, there is a strong correlation between the combination of your age and your BMI. So the older you are and the higher your BMI, the more likely you are to produce these respiratory droplets, ”Edwards explained. “It tended to be true that there are always about 20% of people exhaling about 80% of the aerosol, which is a classic super spreader cast.”

Edwards, who is currently involved in the relief effort in India, offered this advice:

“In India, in November and December, everyone thought they had achieved collective immunity. There was a real feeling it was over, and it just came back in such a roaring way that I think we all need to be prepared for this to be a longer term challenge.


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