Under normal circumstances, we might do a double take at someone wearing a face mask or shield. But in these “new normal” times, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended covering our noses and mouths when we’re in public, even if we’re not feeling sick. People without any symptoms can still be infected and pass the virus causing COVID-19 to others when they cough, sneeze, talk, or sing. So, covering up protects other people from us. If everyone takes this action, we will all be better protected.
For most of us, this may feel a bit odd and uncomfortable. Fortunately, we have quite a few options to choose from. Some people use surgical masks or N95 respirators (which provide the highest level of protection), but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends reserving these for healthcare workers who are at higher risk of contracting the virus. Instead, the CDC recommends that the rest of us use cloth masks. But are masks the only option?
What is a Neck Gaiter?
Actually, we do have other options — one is a neck gaiter, a fitted cloth (typically made of cotton or spandex) that is worn around the neck. It was originally designed to shield people engaged in outdoor sports from the elements, such as sun, wind, and cold.
How to Pick a Good Neck Gaiter
The degree of protection provided by a neck gaiter depends on the tightness of the cloth weave. A tighter weave, such as a tight-weave cotton, protects against more particles in the air. The World Health Organization recommends that a protective cover consist of three layers of fabric: absorbent fabric (e.g. cotton) as the inner layer, non-woven fabric (e.g. polypropylene) in the middle, and non-absorbent fabric (e.g. polyester) as the outer layer. For people who want an even higher level of protection, some neck gaiters feature a slot for a filter, while others, like the gaiters we sell at Boomer Naturals, have nano-silver particles infused in the fabric. Nano-silver has been shown to have antibacterial properties and may help to block virus particles as well.
The neck gaiter fabric should also be breathable, so that people are able to wear it for long stretches of time.
Neck Gaiter Versus Mask
Outdoor sports enthusiasts and athletes may prefer to use neck gaiters over masks because they serve the dual purpose of protecting from the elements and stopping the spread of the virus causing COVID-19. These athletes may also like that a neck gaiter can be worn in other ways (e.g. as a beanie or bandana) in, say, the wilderness or desert where people are few and far apart.
Another advantage over masks are that neck gaiters don’t need to be constantly taken off and put back on — when the neck gaiter isn’t needed, it can be simply pulled down to sit around the neck. Also, when worn correctly, neck gaiters cover the sides of the face fully, which could be more protective than some masks that are loose around the sides.
Who Should NOT Wear a Neck Gaiter?
The CDC recommends that the following people NOT wear a mask or gaiter:
- Children younger than 2 years old
- Anyone with breathing problems or who is unconscious, incapacitated, or unable to remove the face covering without help
At the end of the day, the decision between wearing a neck gaiter or a cloth face mask really comes down to personal choice. Either can help to prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19, together with washing our hands frequently, not touching our faces, and practicing social distancing (at least 6 feet) from other people who don’t live in the same household. These actions put a brake on the virus’s ability to keep infecting people. Even when we have a COVID-19 vaccine and people start to get vaccinated, these actions will help to slow down the pace of infections, giving time for more people to get the vaccine.