How Face Masks Protect Us From Coronavirus

Dr. Syed Farhan Ali Tirmizi, MBBS, MSc – Epidemiologist

Masks Guidelines

What Face Masks Do

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Coronavirus uses small respiratory drops as vehicles to spread itself. Inhaling these drops can cause the infection. Therefore, using face masks on a wide range can reduce the risk of respiratory drops coming out of an infected person.

The Main Types of Face Masks and Their Effectiveness

Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • Can be easily done at home

Cons

  • Less effective compared to surgical masks and N95 respirators in delaying the spread of coronavirus
  • Not used in suspected or confirmed coronavirus cases
Pro
  • Can restrict the outflow of coronavirus through aerosols, splashes, or respiratory drops
Con
  • Small aerosol particles can still seep through them.
Pros
  • Offer better protection against aerosol particles and smaller respiratory drops
  • Cover the nose and mouth and adhere to the skin evenly
Cons
  • Using them improperly causes a bad seal on the face.
  • Prolonged use of them can also cause:
    • Discomfort
    • Suffocation
    • Heating Up

Note: The availability of these masks depends on each state or country. If there are limited supplies, please reserve them for the health care workers, patients, and high-risk individuals.

How to Wear Face Masks Correctly

Face masks are only effective in combatting coronavirus when worn correctly.
  1. Before and after wearing a mask, wash your hands with soap and water for 20 to 30 seconds or use a hand rub with 70% alcohol.
  2. Ensure that the mask covers your mouth and nose completely.
    • The mask should also be completely in contact with your face to seal any gaps.
    • A disposable mask should be used once and within four to five hours only.
  3. Do not touch the mask while you are wearing it. If you must, wash your hands first.
  4. If you notice that your mask is wet, replace it immediately.
  5. When taking off your mask, do not touch its front. Remove it from behind without touching your face.

van der Sande, M., Teunis, P., and Sabel, R. “Professional and home-made face masks reduce exposure to respiratory infections among the general population.” PloS one, 3(7), e2618, 2008. LINK.

OMS. “Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public: When and how to use masks,” 2020. LINK

“Coronavirus Disease 2019: Recommendations for Cloth Face Covers,” April 2020
LINK

Pan X, et al. “Asymptomatic cases in a family cluster with SARS-CoV-2 infection,” 2020. The Lancet Infectious Diseases.
LINK.

Written By

Dr. Syed Farhan Ali Tirmizi, MBBS, MSc

Epidemiologist

Communicable Disease Control (CDC), Alberta Health Services

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