People wear face masks to protect against the spread of COVID-19. TNS
COVID-19 is the infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.
This has led to a worldwide outbreak, with fears of it becoming a pandemic looming large.
COVID-19 can cause a number of symptoms that may appear several days after exposure, meaning the virus has the ability to be asymptomatic.
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, tiredness, and dry cough. Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhoea.
These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually.
The disease can spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth which are spread when a person with COVID-19 coughs or exhales.
These droplets land on objects and surfaces around the person. Other people then catch COVID-19 by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, nose or mouth.
This is why it is important to stay more than 1 meter (3 feet) away from a person who is sick.
The virus has caused panic and a frenzy among the masses to stock up on masks, believed to shield people from catching the disease.
This has in turn resulted in mask shortages.
So should you wear a face mask to protect yourself from the virus, even if you’re not sick?
As per experts, while wearing a mask can be somewhat useful, it does not completely safeguard you from inhaling viral particles.
“The current recommendations regarding masks are that if you yourself are sick with fever and cough, you can wear a surgical mask to prevent transmission to other people.
“If you are healthy, there is not thought to be any additional benefit to wearing a mask yourself because the mask is not airtight and does not necessarily prevent breathing in of these viral particles, which are very tiny,” says Dr Nipunie Rajapakse, a Mayo Clinic infectious diseases specialist.
If you are going to a clinic or hospital to be seen by a health care provider because of concerns of cough or fever, Dr Rajapakse recommends wearing a face mask to avoid transmitting possible infection or virus to other patients and medical staff.
“People who are wearing masks tend to touch their face more than those who are not, which can paradoxically result in an increased risk of infection as well.
Face masks also are recommended for health care workers and people who are taking care of someone infected with COVID-19 in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).
“Most people who do not work in a health care setting have not received training on how to put on and take off the masks properly. Doing this incorrectly can actually increase your risk of infection.
Also, people who are wearing masks tend to touch their face more than those who are not, which can paradoxically result in an increased risk of infection as well,” says Dr Rajapakse.
She says instead of wearing masks, people need to:
Wash their hands frequently using soap and water for 20 seconds or an alcohol-based hand rub.
Avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth.
Practice cough etiquette. Cough into a flexed elbow or tissue, discard the tissue in the trash, and wash hands.
Stay home from school, work and public places if feeling unwell.
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