Can wearing a mask save you from the coronavirus?
Our expert: The latest updates on the outbreak of the Coronavirus 2020 can be found in our new post.
With growing concerns about China’s new Coronavirus disease (COVID-19), many people are trying to find the best ways to protect themselves and their loved ones from infection. Two big questions that many people have are: Will wearing a face mask protect us? And if so, which ones?
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The most important thing to understand is that researchers are still trying to solve the way in which this new corona virus is transmitted. The best advice based on the recommendations of the CDC is:
- Wash your hands regularly throughout the day.
- Do not touch eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid contact with sick people.
This tip protects you from many infections, including Coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Face masks can play a role in preventing infection, but this role is limited in real situations. There is evidence that wearing a face mask can protect you from the transmission of the virus from your hands to your mouth, probably because you are more careful NOT to touch your face when you use it. It also has some protection against “splatter” drops when an infected person sneezes or coughs around them.
The main concern of doctors when recommending masks is the false sense of security that can come with using a mask. There are many reasons why masks are not ideal. For example, it is really difficult to find one that fits perfectly around the nose and mouth, or to keep it for a long period of time. If you scratch your nose or touch your mouth behind the mask, you’ve lost the protection the mask is supposed to offer.
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There are very specific guidelines in medical institutions when to wear masks and what kind of protection to use depending on the type of infection in patients.
Precautions for drops: Wear a rectangular surgical mask for an infection that spreads through large drops when someone coughs, sneezes, or speaks. Infections such as influenza, pertussis and certain types of bacterial meningitis fall into this category. Both the infected person and the caregiver should wear a face mask. It is really important that doctors remove the mask after each interaction and use a new one every time they are near an infected person.
Airborne precautions: Some lung or throat infections spread when small viral or bacterial particles float in the air and others breathe them. Coronavirus disease (COVID-19), measles, SARS, chickenpox and tuberculosis belong to this category. In these cases, the infected person must wear a face mask. And all people who come into close contact should wear an N95 respirator, masks with a special air filter to protect against small particles in the air. These masks fit a person’s face and are generally rounded.
As researchers continue to learn more about the spread of this new coronavirus, recommendations for masks focus on people who are likely to be infected or who are likely to be exposed. People with an infection or at high risk of exposure should wear a face mask. Any person who cares for an infected person in a medical setting should wear a breathing mask as part of the precautionary measures taken in the air.
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For the rest of us, the best protection (washing hands, avoiding sick people and not touching our face with unwashed hands) also helps to prevent colds and flu. If you want to wear a surgical mask, make sure you have the best possible fit around your mouth and nose. Discard the mask properly and put on a new one every time someone who coughs or sneezes contaminates it. It’s also incredibly important to share your travel story with your doctors and seek medical help early on if you have an allergy, fever, cough, or difficulty breathing
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