When there is a particularly nasty outbreak of the flu or similar illness, people will naturally make a great effort not to catch it. But are surgical masks actually useful to protect people against pathogens in the air?
Hand sanitizers and hand washing can help reduce the risk of infection, but when it comes to public perception of disease prevention, does the surgical mask have a reputation as a powerful preventive measure ̵
Viruses that cause respiratory diseases mainly spread through droplets that are generated when an infected person talks, coughs or sneezes. These drops can be inhaled, swallowed or picked up by touching a surface on which they have landed and bringing them to the eyes, nose or mouth. This is why surgical masks are considered a great way to protect yourself against such a virus. However, this is not the case in practice.
Surgical masks are intended to protect patients against the doctor's germs and not the other way around. The mask is there in the first place so that they do not breathe, cough or sneeze their body fluids on you. Even then there are studies that raise questions about how effective they are in that task considering their identification as a source of bacterial contamination in the operating room. Part of their shortcomings stems from the fact that surgical masks do not fit well and do not filter smaller particles. Their filtration level of the material is also unregulated, so everyone can sell something that looks like a surgical mask and labels it as such. 19659008] Respirators have been suggested to be a better option because they are tight-fitting and offer bidirectional protection by filtering both the air entering and leaving the mask. But again, studies on their effectiveness are not decisive.
The biggest problem with many of these viruses is that people can become infectious days before they begin to show symptoms that essentially complicate the use of surgical masks as a prevention method. . For example, people can shed the flu virus one day before the symptoms appear and up to seven days after their excretion. And while this may encourage some to always wear it "just in case", it should be noted that they are rather uncomfortable and quite impractical to wear 24/7.
The Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention (CDC) does not recommend the use of masks by asymptomatic people as a preventive measure against exposure to the flu virus, including those who have a high risk of complications.
The most realistic way to prevent the spread of such a virus is by practicing a simple three-step method every time you sneeze or cough:
- Catch the bacteria with a tissue every time you cough or sneeze;
- Discard the tissue after use and ensure that it does not come into contact with anyone else;
- Wash your hands thoroughly and thoroughly with soap to remove the germs.
The only thing that can help a mask is to minimize the chance of self-contamination. Since a flu-like virus can survive on a surface for up to 24 hours, having a mask can prevent you from touching your mouth or nose with the same hand that came in contact with the infected surface. However, the eyes are still exposed, so having a mask remains an imperfect solution.
So, when it comes to flu or similar viruses, a surgical mask is not an infallible method of prevention. Washing your hands regularly with soap, throwing away used tissues carefully and using hand sanitizer are the best ways to prevent you from getting infected and spreading the disease.