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Here’s what the experts refuse to say when it comes to COVID masks

Here’s what the experts refuse to say when it comes to COVID masks

March 17th

Studies now show that face masks don’t provide iron-clad guarantee to protect you from getting sick since viruses can also transmit through your eyes.

More importantly, small viral particles, commonly known as aerosols can easily penetrate the face mask. Nonetheless, masks can help to capture droplets that act as a transmission entry of coronavirus. Face masks therefore offer fivefold protection as opposed to not wearing one.

If you have recently been in close proximity with an infected person, wearing a face mask minimizes the chances of the virus being passed directly to you. And if you are showing any symptoms of infection, wearing a face mask will help protect others from getting infected. So face masks are not only essential for health workers, but are also recommended for the general population.

However, wearing masks will not make any difference if you just want to enjoy a walk around town so you don’t really need to buy in bulk.

How does coronavirus spread?

To understand how face masks work, you should first know how the coronavirus is transmitted from one person to the other. Essentially, the coronavirus spreads when an infected person sneezes or coughs, releasing droplets of virus into the air in the form of saliva. These drops then spread through the air and can get into your mouth, nose, or eyes. So it seems quite obvious that wearing a face mask will protect your face against saliva droplets, right? This is not 100% factual.
For starters, these droplets or emissions are heavy. That means they can only cover a limited distance of about 6 feet. You must be standing near someone who is coughing straight into your face for you to get the virus directly from the droplets. And if you live with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus, then you are at real risk of getting infected. Wearing a face mask is therefore the best way to prevent the droplets from entering your mouth and nose.

You don’t need a face mask if you are healthy

As mentioned earlier, if you just perform your daily chores, then you don’t really need a face mask. For example, even if there are hundreds of undiagnosed infection cases, that would mean that at least 1 person in every 1,000 people has the virus. That’s why you don’t need to buy a face mask if you are healthy.

In fact, studies now show that you are more likely to get infected by the virus through contaminated hands. When you touch something that is contaminated or shake someone’s hand who is infected, and then touch your nose, mouth or eyes, you can get infected. This explains why, in addition to advising you not to pay too much attention to masks, public health agencies are insisting that you avoid touching your face and wash your hands thoroughly with soap.

Normal face mask versus Surgical masks

Experts recommend the use of a specialized mask referred to as the N95 respirator. This mask can protect you against the deadly coronavirus. The N95 respirator is thicker when compared to most surgical masks and hence offers more protection. Nonetheless, though these masks are recommended for public use, wearing them for a long duration can be challenging.

Specialists now receive regular retraining on proper ways of wearing these face masks or respirators to ensure they don’t breath along the edges. When you breath along the edges, since the respirator is made from a thick material, breathing will be difficult. That means you need to practice breathing in and out and this can be quite claustrophobic. This is because the mask often gets moist very fast.

While you can easily buy an NP5 respirator online, it is not advisable to get one. When people unnecessarily buy respirators in bulk, there can be shortage that can easily put medical professionals at risk. Some people for instance wear surgical masks when they have a cold or flu and don’t want other people to get sick. If you test positive for coronavirus infection, it’s not enough to wear a mask, but instead you should seek medical assistance immediately.

However, people who have been diagnosed with coronavirus should always wear face masks as this helps to limit the chance of infecting those around them. And if you are taking care of a sick person who has the virus, you should wear a face mask as well.

Dispose of them after using

You should dispose of the face mask after use. But the only way to ensure you don’t get infected by the virus is by avoiding travelling to areas that are classified as hot zones due to outbreaks. Also remember to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and avoid touching your face with unclean hands. Avoid close contact with infected people and disinfect all surfaces and objects that you frequently touch.

But what about pet owners? Should they protect their furry friends with face masks too? Well, recently a dong in Wuhan tested positive for coronavirus but it was not that severe. Although the dog was placed in quarantine, it didn’t show any symptoms related to the disease. There is no cause of alarm as there is no evidence that animals can transmit COVID-19 to humans, and hence experts find no reason for you to panic if you have pets. Instead of putting masks on your pets, people diagnosed with COVID-19 should avoid pets.

Personal hygiene is important

You should wear facemasks correctly and dispose of them safely. However, good hygiene is as essential for them to achieve the desired objective. Unfortunately, most paper masks you will find in chemists don’t have a respirator that filters out contaminated air particles. And if you don’t wear them properly as they are meant to, bacteria can enter the mouth and nose. Experts now warn that the virus can also enter your body through your eyes.

And when you wear them for an extended period of time, they can become loose and fail to achieve what they are supposed to do. According to studies done on infectious diseases, there was laxity in use of face masks by those under study and 50 per cent of the people who used the mask didn’t wear them in the right way.

Research on facemasks

Public health organizations have emphasized the value and importance of wearing face masks, and the Respiratory and Immunization disease body has collected sufficient evidence to prove that the public should be encouraged to wear face masks to keep the virus at bay.

According to Tropical Medicine and the UK School of Hygiene, there is little to no evidence that face masks are effective. However, they are extremely useful if you have been diagnosed with the virus and want to protect others from getting infected. Put simply, more studies are needed to prove these face masks can prevent you from catching anything.

Based on studies done after the infamous SARS outbreak, where there was widespread use of face masks in Asia, there were inconclusive results to prove their effectiveness. The reports claims that inconsistent results were evident after systematic studies done to evaluate the effectiveness of face masks in protection against respiratory diseases.

How should you protect yourself?

If you want to stay safe against contracting this infectious disease, there are many effective measures you need to take for proper respiratory, hand and personal hygiene. WHO advises proper personal hygiene and recommends that you wash your hands regularly with warm water and alcohol-based washing solutions. Try and cover your mouth with a tissue or flexed elbow when coughing or sneezing and minimize direct contact with someone who has a persistent cough or fever.

It is also important to seek urgent medical assistance if you have a cough, fever, and experience difficulty breathing. You should also share your travel history when you visit the health center. It is equally important to avoid direct contact with contaminated surfaces and animals, especially when visiting a market in an area that has an outbreak.

In addition to wearing face masks, you should avoid eating undercooked animal foods. More importantly, you need to ensure you exercise proper care when you handle milk, animal organs or raw meat to reduce the risk of cross-contamination. On the other hand, gel and hand foams are useful if you are always out and about.

What to do when you suspect you are infected?

Common symptoms of COVID-19 infection include fever, sneezing, persistent coughing and unending back pain. If you suspect you have been infected by the virus, you should visit a medical facility at your earliest convenience. You can call ahead before you visit the hospital and remember to mention your recent travels within the city or abroad.

So, do face masks actually help?

The more you are exposed to people with the virus, the higher chance you have of contracting it. The average American is having difficulties finding N95 respirator masks, let alone flimsy surgical masks. Our personal opinion—not just the opinion of the CDC or WHO—is that if you MUST be in public in close proximity to others, you may want to wear a mask if you have any stocked up.

If you are considering visiting China for business or business, you should remember to maintain proper respiratory, personal and hand hygiene. As mentioned earlier on, you should avoid visiting bird and animal markets or people who have tested positive for COVID-19.

Remember that wearing face masks is only a drop in the ocean as far as preventing your risk of infection is concerned.

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