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Coronavirus has begun its spread across the United States. And people are worried.
Even with reminders about the high number of deaths in the United States due to flu — which frankly is really something to be concerned about — it’s hard not to be more afraid of something new and unknown. And without a vaccine.
We’re all wondering how far and how fast will it spread, and how to protect ourselves and our families over the coming days.
We’re buying up hand soap and sanitizers left and right… but one of the biggest items flying off store shelves (an online shopping carts) is face masks.
But should you join the shopping frenzy or no? The advice on whether wearing a mask is a good idea or not seems a little conflicted. Let’s examine what the experts are saying why…
Surgical masks versus respirators
The first thing to look at in answer to that question is the type of mask you’re thinking of purchasing.
That’s because experts across the country, including Erin Sorrell, an assistant research professor at the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Georgetown University, say that the typical surgical mask won’t do you any good.
In fact, they say that since the virus is small enough to go straight through the layers of the mask, wearing one won’t help prevent infection.
The type of mask that they say does work is actually called an N95 respirator, which can filter out those tiny viruses encased in droplets.
Dangers of respirators
However, the CDC still doesn’t recommend you go out and stock up.
Well, first it seems to largely be due to the fact that global inventory of the respirators is low and the medical community wants to ensure that health care workers have enough to go around.
But, that’s not all…
They also say that with the respirators comes the potential for a number of problems that could put your health at risk.
First, they say that wearing a respirator could give you a false sense of safety that ends up doing more harm than good.
Next, they point out that wearing a respirator can be new and even uncomfortable so that people who are unused to them may tend to touch their faces more often — something that can lead to infection.
And finally, if you don’t know how to wear one properly, there can be gaps that allow droplet entry.
According to the CDC, rather than wearing a mask, the best preventative measure you can use is to simply wash your hands, well and often. They recommend washing with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds before you touch your face or eat as well as after you go to the bathroom, blow your nose, cough or sneeze.
Choosing for yourself and your family
Of course, with all of that said, when it comes to protecting yourself and your family from a virus that is at least 20 times as deadly as the flu, you have to make the right choice for you.
The World Health Organization (WHO) does recommend that you wear a mask if you are the one sick or if you’re caring for a sick person and points to the following tips for proper use:
- Clean hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer prior to putting on the mask.
- Make sure that there are no gaps between the mask and your face and that your mouth and nose are covered.
- Never touch the mask while wearing it.
- Once the mask becomes damp, replace it.
- Remove the mask from behind, without touching the front and discard immediately in a closed trash can.
- After throwing it away, thoroughly clean your hands again.
Also, when it comes to Coronavirus preparation, one of the best things you can do is to shore up your immune system so that it’s ready to fight. To get the best advice on getting Coronavirus-ready, check out the post by my colleague, Margaret Cantwell, where she delves into 13 natural supplements and drinks that have been shown to help your immune system fight off viruses.
- Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public: When and how to use masks — World Health Organization
- Cruise Ship Held Off California Becomes New Focus of Concern — The New York Times
- Live updates: Coronavirus fears reverberate as cases pass 100,000; U.S. officials widen states of emergency — Washington Post
- At least 11 Americans dead from coronavirus; California declares state of emergency — ABC News
- Coronavirus updates: U.S. death toll rises to 11 with California’s first death — CBS News
- Will a Face Mask Protect You From Coronavirus? Experts Say No — Best Life