The outbreak of a new respiratory disease caused by a new coronavirus, now known as COVID-19 has put the global community in a panic. The virus, which was first detected in China, is rapidly spreading from people to people across the globe. It has affected more than 100 different places internationally and it seems it is not going to stop soon.
Consequently, people began to buy disposable face masks as soon as the spread of the virus occurred. Some have even bought specialized respirators called N95 masks, hoping it would guarantee their safety from COVID-19. Some have also underwent different measures to protect themselves and their loved ones from this threatening disease. However, can wearing face masks really help stop the spread of COVID-19? If so, how long can you wear a face mask?
How Long Can You Wear N95 Masks?
Dr. William Schaffner, infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, told Live Science in an interview that wearing a regular surgical face mask won’t help prevent the COVID-19 virus from infecting you. However, N95 respirators or masks can. It is a mask that is more specialized as it is thicker than the regular surgical mask. However, it is not recommended for public use by Dr. Schaffner nor the CDC or the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control. According to the infectious disease specialist, putting on the N95 respirator and wearing it for a long time is quite challenging. Specialists who wear them even receive training every year to properly put on this type of mask as it needs to fit perfectly around the chin, nose, and cheeks. This ensures that the person wearing an N95 mask doesn’t breathe around the respirator’s edges. Hence, breathing is harder than normal and can be claustrophobic.
In addition, Dr. Schaffner also advised the public not to buy N95 masks. A shortage of these masks will result to the risk of medical workers health and those people who are in much more need of them.
Why Do You Need to Wear a Face Mask?
What is a coronavirus? A coronavirus comes from a large family of viruses. It is common in both animals and people. Currently, seven strains of these viruses have been identified and they usually cause respiratory illnesses that range from mild to moderate.
The COVID-19 disease is the result of a new virus strain that started in December 2019. Its spread was first identified at the Province of Hubei in Wuhan, China. Previously, COVID-19 was known as 2019 nCoV or 2019 Novel Coronavirus. Symptoms of COVID-19 includes cough, fever, and breathing difficulties.
The virus, also known as SARS-CoV-2, is mainly found in droplets in a person’s throat and nose. Therefore, when an infected person sneezes or coughs, the disease is then passed on to others if nearby people breathe in the droplets. This is the main method of how the virus transmits from person to person. Another way the virus spreads is when a person touches objects that were contaminated by the virus. If the said person makes contact with their mouth, eyes, or face, it can make them ill.
Therefore, using face masks may help, in a way, stop the spread of COVID-19. People who are infected with COVID-19 should especially wear face masks. This will help lessen the risk of infection to other people particularly those near them. People who are looking after others who are infected with COVID-19 in close range, such as health care persons, are also recommended to wear face masks. Keep in mind that surgical face masks have a one-time use only and should be disposed after every use.
Can Wearing a Face Mask Stop the New Coronavirus?
There is no guarantee that you will be safe from COVID-19 if you wear a face mask. Just as mentioned previously, the virus not only spreads through droplets from cough and sneeze but also from making contact with objects contaminated by the virus and then transferred through the mouth or eyes. Minute particles of the virus can also breach the surface of the face mask.
However, even if masks can’t totally stop the spread of COVID-19, they can prevent droplets from cough and sneeze from entering through the mouth. There are some studies claiming that wearing face masks give you five times protection than those without masks. Hence, wearing a mask gives you more chances of being safe from the disease, especially if you have been in close range with an infected person. If you are an infected person, by any chance, wearing a mask will prevent you from transmitting the virus to other people. Ideally, it is very important for social and health care persons, or family members to wear face masks if they are taking care of patients who are showing symptoms of COVID-19 or diagnosed with the disease.
However, it is not only wearing masks that can help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The World Health Organization (WHO) have recommended the following activities to keep you safe from this new threat.
Frequent hand washing
Do you wash your hands often? If not, you should. Remember that the COVID-19 virus can be spread through contact with objects contaminated by the virus. To prevent this, wash your hands often with soap and water. Washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds kills the virus that are on your hands. Here’s a tip. Sing the “Happy Birthday” song as you wash your hands. This will ensure clean and safe hands.
At times, you will also find yourself without water or soap. This happens when you have water rationing in your place, or you’re on the road. You can bring with you an alcohol-based hand rub to keep your hands clean and safe from the virus.
Maintaining Social Distance
WHO recommends at least a meter or three feet of distance between you and a person who coughs or sneezes. This will ensure that you don’t breathe in the small droplets in the air spewed by the person.
No touching of the eyes, mouth, and nose
Our main way of touching things is through our hands. Our hands make contact with all sorts of surfaces and objects so they can easily pick up the virus. Unaware, we may transmit the virus from our hands to our nose, eyes, or mouth and we can be infected from there.
Practicing Good Respiratory Hygiene
Following good respiratory hygiene can help the spreading of COVID-19. Good respiratory hygiene means you cover your nose or mouth with a tissue or your bent elbow whenever you sneeze or cough. Following this helps protect yourself and people from the virus.
Seek Medical Attention Immediately if You Have the Symptoms
The symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, cough, and a shortness of breath. If you are experiencing even one of these symptoms, seek early medical attention from your local health authority. Check with them in advance to see if they have directives regarding people with symptoms of COVID-19. Doing this will help spread the virus in your community.
Be updated with the Latest News on COVID-19
Be informed with what is latest with COVID-19. You can do this by watching the news, or checking in with your healthcare provider.
Follow the advice and directives of your local and national health authorities on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19. They are the ones who can give you accurate and up-to-date information regarding the disease. They can also recommend or advise people what to do to keep the virus from spreading in your community. Do not just listen to rumors from people as this will only cause unnecessary panic or anxiety. Confirm with the right authorities.
Follow Self-preventive Measures
People have their own way of protecting themselves during times of disasters, or in this case, an outbreak of a new, infectious virus.
If you feel unwell, or experiencing mild symptoms of the disease like headache or a runny nose, just stay at home until you get well. You may call this method “self-quarantine”. This ensures that, if in case you may be infected, you won’t spread the virus to other people outside.
If you happen to have a fever, cough or breathing difficulties, ask for medical care immediately as this might be a respiratory infection, or worse, something serious.
As the COVID-19 virus is new, there is no vaccine developed yet to cure the disease. However, we can make our community safe from the virus by doing the following.
- Cooperate with local and national health authorities.
- Practice good respiratory hygiene.
- Avoid traveling to places where there are known outbreaks of COVID-19.
- Practice frequent hand washing with soap and water.
- Do not touch parts of your face with hands unwashed.
- Avoid close-range contact with people who are infected with COVID-19.
- Disinfect surfaces and objects. Vinegar is a good disinfectant.
- Lastly, do not spread fake news regarding COVID-19. This will only cause global fear, panic, and anxiety and will not help solve the health crisis on COVID-19.