As the 2019 strain of coronavirus, COVID-19, spread around the world, worry has increased. While people are right to protect themselves from contracting the virus, which has proven to be fatal for those people who have compromised immune systems, there is some confusion over which protections are the most helpful.
Amid rising concern over COVID-19, citizens have taken to using masks to protect themselves from infected droplets that may be coughed or sneezed into the air by people who have the virus. In particular, a medical-style mask has become so common that images have surfaced of people placing them on their pets.
However, many people do not use these masks adequately. They may remove them or still touch their faces, which introduces the virus into their systems via mouth, eyes, or nose. Of course, these masks offer no protection to the eyes, which they leave the eyes wholly uncovered. And if people touch the outside of the mask when removing it, they may become contaminated.
Furthermore, those thin surgical masks may not be enough to block droplets in the air. Medical professionals who work with infected patients use a heavy-duty mask known as an N95 respirator that tightly fits around the nose and mouth. To ensure a secure fit, the masks must undergo a yearly fit-test. Furthermore, it’s an uncomfortable device to wear.
While surgical masks are more readily available and comfortable, they do not provide near the same protection from airborne viruses as the N95 masks. Medical experts not that they do provide some protection, but people who are at risk for contracting coronavirus should not rely on surgical masks alone. Reusable cloth masks, which are more commonly used in Asian countries, may even harbor more pathogens when compared to single-used surgical masks.
In fact, medical experts still recommend hand washing as the single most effective preventative measure against COVID-19. Frequently and thoroughly wash your hands for 20 seconds, especially after touching public items and removing your mask. Use hand sanitizer when you cannot wash your hands. Avoid touching your face.
A surgical mask is most useful to patients who are already sick and want to avoid infecting others, whether that infection is a coronavirus, the flu, or a different virus.