Time: 3 Minutes
Risk: Lung and Brain Damage, Death
Why You Should Keep Your Mask After Covid
In most parts of the world today, we take being able to breathe clean air for granted. Until recently, carrying an n95 or equivalent face mask around with us every day was not something most of us even thought about. Still, some may wonder why a mask and filter belong in their survival kit or go bag, other than for the current Covid-19 pandemic.
The idea that Air is the first and most important of the survival needs seems so apparent to most people; it’s commonly overlooked. They may think, “Of course, I can’t survive more than a few minutes without air. I may be able to hold my breath for a few minutes, but if I can’t breathe, I already have bigger problems that a mask won’t solve.” While true, there are many serious reasons why you should keep a few good-quality masks in your kit, your car, a backpack or purse, and your office.
An emergency that can cause the air to become contaminated or toxic may be less probable than a car crash, a car breaking down in a remote area, or getting lost in the woods. However, breathing contaminated air is far more severe because it only takes a few moments to damage our lungs permanently, and a few minutes could be fatal. So while it is less likely, the severity demands our attention.
The other important factor in determining to include a mask in your kit and other areas you spend your day is that the risk is easily mitigated and is relatively cheap and affordable. Masks are also very light and take up very little room. For these reasons, a good quality, reusable mask with filters should be in the number one spot on your survival gear list.
Science has shown that masks can protect us from the flu and other airborne illnesses. They can also protect us from pollen and other allergens and air contaminated with smoke from a building or forest fire. They can help keep the cold air out of your lungs in freezing weather by forming a warm pocket of air inside the mask.
Breathing smoke from burning plants like poison ivy, poison oak, and other poisonous plants can cause your lungs to become inflamed and cause severe breathing problems, and can kill you. The plants’ oil can remain in the smoke and will not be filtered out by n95 masks, which do not filter out the oil. If you think a plant may be poisonous, never burn it.
Once you have determined which mask is best for you and your family, ensure you have enough for every family member or group. It’s also important to have a few extras in case one gets damaged or lost. Keep enough in your car for the regular number of passengers, and keep one in your office, one or two in your hiking or camping equipment, or anywhere else you spend a lot of time.
It’s also important to consider the air quality in your home as well. While it is a good idea to have quality air filters, replacing them often, and having a few plants that clean the air well like a Peace Lily, there are other things to consider. If there was a volcano eruption like Mt. St. Helens, a forest fire blowing smoke for hundreds of miles, or a chemical plant explosion blowing toxic air in your direction, being able to seal your house quickly is essential.
Duct tape, or gaffers tape, and trash bags can effectively seal your home from these types of contaminated or toxic air. Use duct tape on your doors and windows and tape trash bags over vents and pipes on external walls. You only need to do this once to see how much duct tape and trash bags you need, and you can store them in a container to safely hold them. After some practice, you will also know how long it would take.
Protecting your lungs may not be something we think about a lot or even every day, but every now and then, ask yourself what you would do where you are at if something happened where you needed to protect them. Do you have a mask with you? What could you use to improvise something? Wet cotton works well in most cases. It may not come up often, but it may save you from damaged lungs or might just save your life.