It’s called Kosk: Have you seen this nose-only mask online and wondered what's the point?
This unusual “mask” being sold by the South Korean company Atman is supposedly meant for use when eating. We asked a medical expert if it’s actually helpful.
You might be scrolling through the Internet to stock up on disposable masks when a picture of a strange-looking mask pops up on your device. And no, it’s not the duck bill-like or fish-shaped mask. Instead, this version only covers the nose.
What’s the point in that? This KF80-rated nose covering (it sells for 9,800 won or S$11 for a box of 10) by South Korean company Atman is meant for use when eating. It supposedly reduces anxiety in those who are worried about breathing in the SARS-COV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, via the nose while dining out.
Some media outlets have described the Kosk (made up of the Korean word for nose “ko” and “mask”) mask as consisting of two pieces: The nose covering (seen in the picture above) as well as a mouth portion that lets you remove it when eating. Other reports noted that the Kosk mask lets you fold and tuck away the bottom portion covering the mouth.
But from what we can discern from online images, the Kosk mask is simply a strip that only covers the middle of your face. It appears you could wear it over your regular mask, which could have contributed to the above observations.
The product hasn't received much love online but could there be some science backing it up? We found out from an expert.
DOES COVID-19 INFECT US EASIER THROUGH THE NOSE?
The Kosk mask might have ridden on the results of early studies that found that the original Wuhan virus targeted nasal cells – which explains why the loss of smell is one of the early symptoms of COVID-19.
As for the later Delta and Omicron variants, the viral levels appear to be lower in animal studies, said Dr Somani Jyoti, a senior consultant with National University Hospital’s Division of Infectious Diseases, and an assistant professor of medicine at NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine.
Between the Delta and Omicron variants, the “levels of virus are lower for Omicron from nasal swabs compared to Delta”, she said.
WHICH ORIFICE IS THE VIRUS MORE LIKELY TO ENTER OUR BODIES: NOSE OR MOUTH?
Both, actually. When it comes to the amount of virus that can enter the nose versus the mouth, it depends on whether you’re a mouth breather or primarily a nose breather, said Dr Somani. And of course, the amount of SARS-COV-2 particles in the air near you, which can be higher in a closed, air-conditioned environment than outdoors, she added.
What about the 80 per cent filtration capability that the Kosk mask supposedly provides? Does that help in any way?
“In order to answer the question, we would need to have studies comparing persons who wear Kosk masks regularly when eating indoors versus those who do not at the time of a COVID-19 surge. I suspect that in the time of Omicron, at least, it may not make much difference,” said Dr Somani.
IS IT WORTH GETTING THE NOSE COVERING?
“No, I do not think it would be worth it,” said Dr Somani. “If the community rates are high, eating indoors would not be considered very safe, even with a Kosk mask.”
A more effective way to keep COVID-19 at bay is to eat outdoors, where there is good ventilation, she said, or simply order takeaway.
“I think if you are very anxious and the community rates are not at a surge level, you could get the Kosk and wear it if it makes you feel better,” said Dr Somani.
However, she highlighted that if the person you are eating with or someone nearby happens to be a super spreader, you may still get infected. “Most of the time, this is not the case, and most infected individuals only spread to one to three close contacts.”