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With news of potential novel coronavirus cases popping up every now and then, and one case of infection already confirmed, the public has become more conscious about protecting their health. When going out, people wear masks almost without being prompted. But still, there are those who are a bit skeptical if it’s indeed effective protection. Some also wonder how exactly you should wear it.
To set the record straight, here’s everything you need to know about masks as protection for the 2019 nCoV:
Who Should Wear a Face Mask?
If you are not feeling well, coughing, or sneezing, you are advised to wear a surgical face mask. This is to prevent the spread of virus and bacteria–and potentially the novel coronavirus that originated from Wuhan. Today, people wear masks also to minimize their exposure to people who may have been infected, but note that doing so may not be advisable for some people. For instance, those who have asthma may have trouble breathing with a face mask on.
What are the Different Types of Face Masks?
- Surgical mask – This is affordable, which makes it the go-to mask to protect yourself from nCov. It has a white fluid barrier to capture respiratory droplets from the wearer, and a colored waterproof barrier to prevent germs from sticking to it. It has a loose fit, making it relatively easier for the wearer to breathe.
- N95 respirator mask – It is denser and can filter 95% of very small particles (0.3 microns). The fit is designed to have a very close fit. It is disposable, and the N in its name means it’s not resistant to oily particles.
- R95 respirator mask – It also has a 95% filtration similar to N95, but the R in its name means it is only “somewhat” resistant to oils. For a respirator that is strongly resistant to oil, use a P95 mask.
- Paper mask – This kind of face mask does not have a filtration later, which means it is not recommended for protective purposes.
- Pitta mask – This can filter out 99% of pollen and dust, which are 5-100 microns in size, and 86% of 5-micron particles. However, it is not recommended for the 2019-nCov infection.
Do Surgical Face Masks Really Protect You?
The short answer: to a certain extent, yes. There are a number of ways this new coronavirus spreads. The most common is airborne. When an infected person coughs or sneezes, they let out droplets of virus-laden mucus into the air. You’ll likely get sick yourself when you come in contact with these air particles. When you cover your nose and mouth with a mask, you keep yourself from inhaling those droplets, reducing your risk of catching the infection. But do take note that it’s not going to give you full protection.
Another way viruses spread is through contaminated surfaces. When someone with virus on their hands touches a surface, say, a doorknob, you’re likely to catch the infection if you come into contact with that. That’s why it’s also important to wash your hands often. The bottom line is, do wear face masks because they give you some degree of protection, but also practice good hygiene.
When Should You Wear a Face Mask?
The World Health Organization encourages the use of masks if you are:
- going to be in crowded places, especially wet markets
- working in public places
- visiting a healthcare facility
- caring for people being monitored for possible novel coronavirus infection
- traveling overseas, especially to countries with confirmed cases of coronavirus
It’s also especially important to wear masks if you’re showing signs or symptoms of respiratory infection. This includes runny nose, coughs, sneezing, difficulty breathing, sore throat, and fever. See your doctor immediately if you’re experiencing these signs and symptoms of the COVID19. Be prepared to talk about your travel history as well.
Also take note that kids and elderly people are especially vulnerable to infections, which is why they should wear masks when going out.
How Should You Wear a Surgical Mask?
While masks can give you protection, it can only do so when you’re wearing them properly. Follow these steps in making sure you’re using them right:
- Place the colored side of the mask (blue or green) in front, away from your face, and the white portion inside, touching your face. The blue side is waterproof, preventing droplets of germs from sticking to it. The white part, on the other hand, is an absorbent material, soaking up droplets from your coughs or sneezes.
- Put the side of the mask that has a stiff, bendable thread on top, aligned to the bridge of your nose. Squeeze it there, molding your nose’s shape, so you can keep that area covered.
- Stretch the mask until below the chin area.
- Place the string loops around each ear.
Make sure that you have clean hands when doing these steps. As for removing the mask, it’s important not to touch its blue or white portion, as these may be filled with germs. Instead, follow these steps:
- Hold the string loops and lift the mask gently off your face.
- Wrap the mask in paper before throwing it out.
- Wash your hands with soap and water.
If You Can’t Find a Mask, What Should You Do?
Don’t panic. Health experts, in fact, say that if you’re not doing the things mentioned earlier, it’s okay not to wear a mask. What you should do, instead, is to exercise healthy habits, including:
- washing hands with soap and water often
- avoiding touching your face or rubbing your eyes
- preparing food in a sanitary work station
- cooking food thoroughly
- avoiding close contact with sick people and crowded places
- visiting your doctor as soon as you notice symptoms
There’s a lot of things about 2019-nCoV that health experts still don’t know, considering that it’s a new type of virus. But one thing they do know for sure is that prevention of infection is crucial. It’s important for an individual’s well-being. It’s the key to stopping the outbreak crisis. That said, protect yourself from possible infections. Use face masks. Practice proper hygiene. Take care of your health.