When Both Glasses And Masks Are Required...


After two whole months of lock-down and long readings about instructions on protection from the coronavirus, she finally got ready to leave her home. She put on her clothes and mask despite her fears, like an enthusiastic kid preparing for Eid celebrations. After a few steps outdoors, she started squinting through the fog; her face mask had started fogging up her eyeglasses.

She has a longstanding relationship with eyeglasses. It is the first thing she looks for in the morning since she was 12 years old. It is the light of life, so to speak, that she never doubted to be an obstacle. Can she forgo her eyeglasses so easily? Or should she let go of that new companion? Is seeing nothing the price of protecting herself and others? These queries did not concern her as much as the importance of both glasses and masks, so she decided to resume her plans, whatever happens.

She started her outdoor journey of about eight hours, during which she tried to practice all the healthy habits of wearing and removing masks set by the World Health Organization, which she had memorized by heart. She made sure there was no gap between the mask and her face. She covered her nose, mouth, and chin. She avoided touching the mask by hand, but with the presence of the eyeglasses, sometimes she needed to; however, she washed her hands immediately afterward. When the fog completely obscured her view, she would wash her hands, remove the glasses, clean them with a tissue, put them on again, throw the tissue, and wash her hands straight away. Eventually, she became exhausted.

She came back home frustrated. She handled the mask by the ties, disposed of it in a closed bin, and washed her hands and face with soap and water. "Today had passed, but what about tomorrow?" she wondered. She decided to search for the cause and the solution to the problem. To her surprise, she noticed that this is a global issue. She read studies by the Public Health Emergency Collection clarifying this phenomenon. When warm breath escapes from the top of the mask, it condenses on the cooler surface of the lenses, so they become foggy. This process is entitled "surface tension", during which the particles of the droplets stick to each other and bond, and a fogging layer is formed that impairs vision.

She read dozens of tips, including sticking a medical tape on the face to fill the gaps between it and the mask, using anti-fogging sprays, or improving the fit of the mask to fill the spaces between the eyes and the cheeks. Finally, she read another study that advised to wash the glasses with soapy water—making sure it fits the lenses—then leave them to dry by air or using a soft fabric before putting them back on, and then wearing the mask. This process leaves behind a thin surfactant film that reduces this surface tension and causes the water molecules to spread evenly into a transparent layer.

After trying some of these tricks, they temporarily fixed her issue, but it was worth trying. At the end of her search journey, she realized that what exhausted her in a few hours is not comparable to what the medical staff face daily. This problem may hinder them from working efficiently; when they collect blood samples, for example, or protect themselves. This problem may even increase the chances of infection. She prayed to God to protect the medical staff everywhere and end this pandemic soon.

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SCIplanet is a bilingual edutainment science magazine published by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina Planetarium Science Center and developed by the Cultural Outreach Publications Unit ...
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