How Safe Are Masks?
The above question has gained exceptional attention in the COVID 19 world. It is understood that the act of wearing a mask renders a sense of security. It gives the impression that the person has taken measures that are required for their safety. If you have a similar understanding of masks, it is time you rethink. World Health Organization has already stated, “There is no evidence that wearing a mask by a healthy person in a wider community setting can help them from infection with respiratory viruses.” Whether masks really provide protection against viral infections is a far complex question.
What Does A Mask Do?
A mask does not protect the wearer. It protects others from the infection that the wearer might carry, without knowledge. Any cloth mask is not capable of preventing small water droplets of the environment from entering the mouth. The maximum a mask does is slow down the number of droplets going out of the mask. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US advise the general population to wear a cloth mask. The sole purpose of doing this is to level down the high transmission of infection from the carriers.
It is important to note that coronavirus spreads through three mediums: eyes, nose, and mouth. Using a mask without goggles or spectacles leads to no protection, in the first place. In a public area, it is important to shield your eyes against water droplets that enter the environment. Even if the person wears both goggles and masks in a public space, it is not mandatory that the infection is completely avoided. Any protection that a mask may render is negated if it is not used properly. Touching an area of a mask that is contaminated would lead to infection.
How To Ensure Safety?
Only N95 respirators are helpful in protecting the wearer against small infectious particles. The US CDC has already restricted the use of N95 respirators for health-care works. This has been done to avoid the exploitation of these masks. They are a necessity for all workers who require staying around COVID 19 patients. A surgical mask is another mask that is helpful in protecting the wearer against large particles. Surgical masks, like cloth masks, do not obstruct small particles from entering the mask. Moreover, they need to be disposed of every use. That makes this option less feasible and less efficient.
The only way to ensure safety against COVID 19 virus or other similar viral infections is to protect the other. Wear a cloth mask in case of any respiratory issues so that others are protected. Social distancing needs to be practiced to avoid airborne protection. Most importantly, avoid touching places through which the virus spreads. No matter whether you wear a mask or not, it is important to not touch your eyes or mouth or nose with dirty hands. Sanitize regularly and frequently. Hence, the answer is simple. Only surgical masks and N95 respirators help in forming some resistance against airborne infections. Yet, it is important that you wear a cloth mask in order to avoid the spread of infection.