With over 90,000 recorded Coronavirus cases worldwide, it’s no surprise that people are actively researching tips to keep themselves and their families infection-free.
A common idea that has appeared rapidly on social media and news channels seems to imply that wearing face masks can help curtail the risk of contracting Coronavirus, causing shortages of masks worldwide. However, it may actually be adding fuel to the fire.
According to infection prevention specialist Dr Eli Perencevich from the University of Iowa’s college of Medicine, wearing masks can ‘increase the risk of infection’. In an interview with Forbes, Dr Perencevich said, “The average healthy person does not need to have a mask, and they shouldn’t be wearing masks. There’s no evidence that wearing masks on healthy people will protect them. They wear them incorrectly, and they can increase the risk of infection because they’re touching their face more often.”
Even if you are splurging on a medical respirator mask, Dr. Perencevich warns that not washing your hands before and after taking off the mask can increase your risk, and create a false sense of security. With the current shortage, it also makes it difficult for healthcare professionals to access respirators, which puts them in jeopardy and increases the risk to our communities.
That’s not to say wearing a face mask has zero benefits; if you are sick, wearing a mask can prevent the Coronavirus from spreading to your loved ones and those you are in contact with. Since the virus is spread through droplets and not by air transmission, the standard surgical mask keeps the droplets in, and prevents the wearer from passing on their sickness. “The one time you would want a mask is if you’re sick and you have to leave the house,” Dr. Perencevich said. “If you have the flu or think you have COVID, that’s when you’d put on a mask to protect others. In your house, if you feel like you’re sick, you should wear a mask to protect your family members.”
Although masks can help with containment if you’re sick, the best way to prevent the spread of Coronavirus is still through washing your hands thoroughly, and social distance.