Coronavirus is contagious, meaning it spreads from person to person through close contact. Now the so-called “protective” face masks are flying off the shelves – prices have soared and in many places they’ve sold out. But do they really work?
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has its own advice on whether or not to don the latest health accessory.
The organisation states: “If you’re healthy, you only need to wear a mask if you’re taking care of a person with suspected coronavirus (2019-nCoV) infection.”
However, if you’re coughing and sneezing, the WHO does recommend to wear a mask.
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Bear in mind, “masks are effective only when used in combination with frequent hand-cleaning with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water,” adds the WHO.
The organisation even has five tips on how to put on, use, take off and dispose of a mask.
Tips from the WHO: Step one
“Before putting on a mask, clean hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.”
“Cover mouth and nose with a mask and make sure there are no gaps between your face and the mask.”
“Avoid touching the mask while using it; if you do, clean your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.”
“Replace the mask with a new one as soon as it is damp and do not reuse single-use masks.”
“To remove the mask: remove it from behind (do not touch the front of mask); discard immediately in a closed bin; clean hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.”
Public Health England have a more reserved approach to the use of face masks.
The UK health body states: “Face masks play a very important role in clinical settings, such as hospitals, but there’s very little evidence of widespread benefit from their use outside of these clinical settings.”
If people choose to wear a face mask, Public Health England adds: “Facemasks must be worn correctly, changed frequently, removed properly and disposed of safely in order to be effective.”
The best way to protect ourselves from coronavirus, according to Public Health England, is to “wash our hands frequently with soap and water, or use a sanitiser gel”.
Additionally, it recommends “carrying tissues and using them to catch coughs and sneezes, then putting the tissue in a bin”.
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has its own opinion on the matter.
The CDC doesn’t recommend the use of face masks in people who are well to protect themselves from coronavirus.
It states: “Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) to help prevent the spread of the disease to others.”
Symptoms of coronavirus include: fever, cough and shortness of breath.
To summarise, taking on board the recommendations of all three of these professional health bodies, it would appear face masks can help to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
However, it’s only useful if you’re showing symptoms of the infection and is a more of a precautionary step to stop infecting others.
Here, it is important to wear, use and dispose of the face mask safely.
People going about their everyday activities, who are perfectly well, probably aren’t going to get any beneficial use of wearing a face mask.
And so, no, don’t bother buying a face mask that has increased 800 percent in price – it’s not worth it.
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