Bandanas and Neck Gaiters Spread Droplets and Ineffective At Protecting Against COVID-19

A new research published by Duke University researchers in the journal Science Advances has shown that bandanas and neck gaiters as well as neckerchiefs do not protect against COVID-19 infection as people believe. The study found that using these items is even worse than going without any face masks since neck gaiters and bandanas turn big fluid droplets that form when people talk into light droplets that get carried about in the wind as aerosols.

People have been using bandanas and neck gaiters before the advent of coronavirus, and given the ease at which they can be slid up and down the face as a covering, many people have adopted it as a protection against COVID-19. Runners and hikers also love using them since it covers their faces against the wind. But the new research shows that it does not protect but rather aids the spread of coronavirus in an unintended manner.

According to the study, neck gaiters and bandanas do little to block fluid droplets when people speak; and they break large droplets into tiny particles of aerosols which are carried around in the air, increasing the possibility of inhalation for healthy people.

“The neck gaiter that we tested did essentially nothing, and worse than nothing, because it appeared to make large droplets into small droplets,” said Isaac Henrion, the study’s co-author.

The researchers said only a small number of participants were recruited for the study and while more studies are needed to validate their research, the way a gaiter is made and the materials as well as layers used may make some better than others at preventing the spread of coronavirus.

“Further research is needed to investigate the performance of bandanas and neck gaiters, since our study is only a proof of concept for the experimental method,” Henrion said. “Not all…neck gaiters are bad. There are plenty of good ones out there. It depends so much on the material, on how many layers you wear.”

Although the focus of the study was on fluid droplets that people produce when they talk, the researchers found that normal N95 masks are the best for preventing the spread of COVID-19 since stop 90-95% of droplets, while surgical masks come second in terms of ranking for preventing the release of droplets. Cotton masks were also found to stop 80% of saliva droplets when people speak while putting them on.