Are Face Masks Effective in Containing the Spread of COVID-19?

Since the outbreak of the Coronavirus that initiated in China somewhere in December 2019, the use of face masks has remained a statement of discussion. It is primarily because of the fact that the authorities have continued to change their stance on the matter.

Face masks, that were initially being recommended only for health care workers, are now also being promoted for use by the general public by some authorities and medical care professionals.

With so much conflicting information and ambiguous news around, have you been asking yourself the question:

Are face masks effective? It’s the question on most of our minds these days since we all wish for maximum protection against the virus. The answer can very well be deduced from what the authorities are saying.

Even those that are recommending it only for health care workers are of the opinion that they are effective. This is exactly why they recommend it primarily for those who are at maximum risk of catching the infection. Let’s dig a little further and find out more about the subject.

N95 for protection

N95 Face masks / KN95 face masks are the best choice for protection against the virus since they are tested to offer over 95% protection against contaminated particles in the air. So if you were wondering, are face masks effective, understand that in the case of N95, they are highly effective.

However, they exist in limited numbers in the market and aren’t recommended for use by healthy people for the same reason. Only health care workers and patients should be the ones using these masks to prevent the spread of this disease.

Can face-coverings prevent the spread?

Because of the unavailability of medical face masks, much of the population is turning to homemade face masks for protection against this disease. Are face masks effective when you make them at home with some simple household items? Let’s find out.

The primary benefit of covering your face with homemade face masks is to protect others from catching the disease if you are infected. When you cough or sneeze, tiny droplets are released from your nose and mouth into the air. A homemade face covering will do an effective job of containing the spread of these infected particles. It will prevent you from contaminating the air around you so that it’s safer for others to breathe in.

That brings us to the question, are face masks effective, if you are healthy? According to researchers at the CDC, about 25% of Corona patients do not show any symptoms but can still transmit it to others. Since some of us may already be infected without even knowing it, it seems like a good idea to keep the face covered to minimize the transmission of the disease.

So it only protects others, not me?

The next question on your mind might be this: are face masks effective for me, or do they simply benefit those around me?

While face masks, especially surgical and homemade ones do a better job at protecting others from the possibly contaminated releases from your mouth and nose, they also offer some protection for you. Here are the ways in which face masks are effective for us:

  1. We are all part of a greater community; if everyone in the community covers their face, the contaminations in the air will be reduced considerably. This will make it safer for us to live in the environment.
  2. Airborne particles take the route that offers them little resistance, rather than one that’s obstructed. So by covering your nasal passages and mouth, you offer obstruction to the route of the particles. They will prefer to take the routes around your face, rather than heading right at you. In this way, these face masks offer some level of protection against the virus.
  3. If someone coughs or sneezes in your direction, the mask will prevent the contaminated droplets from reaching you. However, you must know how to use the mask effectively in this case. If such a situation occurs, do not touch the front side of the mask. If you touch the mask, you’ll be transferring the contaminated particles to your hands. Instead, take it off immediately from the ear loops and throw it away. Use a fresh mask to keep yourself protected.

Proper application of face masks

Are face masks effective? They are only effective if you apply them properly. Here are some guidelines that you can follow in order to maximize their effectiveness against the Coronavirus:

  • If you are likely to come closer than 6 feet from a Corona patient, wear a face mask.
  • Adjust the ear loops until the mask is properly fitted and covers your nose and mouth.
  • Prevent yourself from touching the mask, especially its front, all the while that you are wearing it.
  • If you have flu or cough, wear a mask when you are around people.
  • After using a surgical mask, or respirator, remove it from inside and throw it. Do not touch the outside of the mask and don’t plan on using it again.
  • Once you have used a homemade face mask, wash and dry it before you use it again.

Is it the only preventive measure?

So we have established that face masks are, in fact, effective in reducing the spread of the virus. However, are face masks effective if you are not practicing other preventive measures? The answer to the question is no since nose and mouth openings aren’t the only possible carriers for the disease.

Your hands and other parts may also become contaminated if you are in close proximity to a patient. Wash your hands with soap and water frequently and avoid touching your face with your hands before washing them. Other than that, stay indoors as far as possible and avoid going to crowded places where you could risk catching an infection.

Bottom line

So are face masks effective and should you be using one? The bottom line is that they are a strong preventive measure against the disease, and you should be wearing one when you plan on heading out in public.

However, leave the N95s and surgical masks for the doctors and other health workers since they are at continuous risk of catching the virus. Homemade face masks are simple to make. Just follow the guidelines on the CDC website and you’ll have your customized face mask ready in no time.

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