Can a Mask Protect You From COVID-19, aka Coronavirus?

Throughout history, we have seen various kinds of diseases and infections pop up into the world and then disappear after some time. Scientists were able to figure out the treatment for some of those diseases, while others just faded with time. Recently, there has been a spread of a virus that experts have labeled as the coronavirus (COVID-19) across the world. It was first found by doctors in Wuhan, China. However, people in many countries may mistakenly treat it as common flu as the symptoms are very similar. And it may lead many people in many countries untested for this new virus. Thus, it is still unknown whether Wuhan is the real origin of COVID-19. After the breakout in China, China took action very quickly to shut down all shops nationally to fight against this new type of coronavirus.

The health authorities all over the world have been on a high alert to be able to tackle this situation as efficiently as possible. They have guided the citizens to wear a mask at all times to keep their mouths covered as the virus can spread from one person to another. The symptoms of COVID-19 have also been revealed so everyone can monitor themselves and see a doctor if necessary. Before going straight to the urgency of wearing masks for prevention against this virus, let’s first look at other essential things we must know about the coronavirus. The first step is to be aware of what you are protecting yourself from and then think about how you are going to do it.

Coronavirus Vaccine

Coronaviruses (CoVs) are a group of viruses that cause the common cold or viral pneumonia that can spread from animals to humans and can spark an outbreak.

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Symptoms of the Coronavirus, aka COVID-19

It is vital to know the symptoms of the coronavirus to be able to diagnose it yourself and take precautionary measures accordingly. The first thing you need to keep in mind is that the COVID-19 gives similar symptoms to that of the flu in the beginning. There will be mild symptoms like a runny nose and cough. You may also feel a rise in temperature leading to a slight fever and a sore throat after being exposed to the virus. The severity of the infection depends on the strength of the immune system of every individual. Some people may face difficulty breathing as a result, while some people may get pneumonia.

Is the disease fatal? We will answer this question while discussing the statistics concerning this disease across the globe later on. For now, all you need to understand is that this disease can easily be avoided by taking a few precautionary measures. Aged people who have some other medical conditions like diabetes are more vulnerable to the COVID-19. Moreover, if you have asthma, illness related to heart, cancer, etc. then you ought to be very careful about your surroundings.

How Can You Protect Yourself From the Coronavirus aka COVID-19?

As the incubation period for COVID-19 could be as long as 14 days, infected people without any symptom can still spread the virus to others. Wearing a mask is highly recommended for the general public.  However, it is hard to implement for many governments because of the shortage of masks. And it also depends on what kind of masks. Many countries across the world have decided to close all the educational institutes and suspend flights to prevent any further spread of the virus. Staying at home is the obvious answer to the question of protecting oneself, but that is not possible as well have to get out of the house for specific reasons. Here’s what you need to do;

  • Wash your hands using a bar of soap and clean water
  • Keep a pack of tissues with you at all times and use it while coughing in public places
  • It would be best to avoid touching your nose, mouth, and eyes especially if your hands are unwashed
  • Keep a hand sanitizer with you and use it before eating anything
  • Do not maintain close contact with people who are not well

Did you notice we did not mention anything about wearing a mask? It is because we need to discuss the idea of wearing a mask in detail. For now, keep the guidelines as mentioned above in your mind to stay safe from the coronavirus. You should also see a doctor for a proper check-up if you develop any symptoms.

Masks as a Precautionary Measure

The coronavirus can spread from one person to another if the infected one has sneezed or coughed in the vicinity. Wearing a mask blocks the virus from entering your body through your face, but that does not mean you don’t have to take other safety measures. Everyone must be aware of when he/she should wear a mask and how they should do it as tiny mishaps can lead to more significant problems.

If a person has not developed any known symptoms in the given period, then he/she only needs to put on a mask when taking care of someone infected. Similarly, if you have been sneezing and coughing regularly, then wear a mask, so others around you are not exposed to the virus. Moreover, wearing a mask will only be useful if you take other safety measures along with it. These include keeping your hands clean with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer or a bar of soap and some clean, warm water, disposing of the mask after using it as important as putting it on to stay safe from COVID-19.

Here’s what you need to do to put on the mask:

  • Please wash your hands before taking the mask to put it on
  • Using the mask, cover your nose as well as your mouth correctly and make sure that there are no gaps between your face and the mask. The mask should be tightly covering the whole face.
  • Most importantly, please do not touch the mask while wearing it. In case you do, wash your hands with a bar of soap and clean running water.

Once the mask gets damp, get rid of it and put on a new one taking the same steps that we talked about. Now it is time to take the mask off very carefully and here’s what you should do;

  • Do not take the mask off from the front that is covering your face
  • Please take off the mask from behind and immediately throw it a closed bin
  • Wash your hands with a soap/hand sanitizer and put on a new mask

Many governments have encouraged their citizens to wear masks, and many countries have also started giving them out for free. However, there has been a shortage of masks in several third-world countries due to mismanagement. China has done a commendable job to make sure that its citizens are safe from the exposure of the coronavirus. Moreover, China has also started working on the coronavirus vaccine, so let’s hope it is available before any more damage is done.

What Kind of Masks Work Against COVID-19?

There are several types of masks available in the market to protect you against infectious diseases. We need to know the best one to purchase in the situation of the coronavirus. Let’s take a look at different types of masks available at pharmaceutical shops:

  • Surgical Mask: This is a product that almost every pharmacy keeps, and it protects you from infectious particles that can be passed onto a human in the form of droplets.
  • N95 Respirator: This is a medical device that protects the wearer from inhaling any airborne particles like dust that may damage their health. You can get the insulating one that prevents any condensation within the mask, or you can get the one with a filtering device depending upon your need.

N95 works best to protect you from the coronavirus (COVID-19). And it is also disposable. It allows maximum filtration of all kinds of airborne particles, including the infectious ones that can cause COVID-19 symptoms in people. Moreover, it filters about 95% of those aerosols and is definitely the best chance for us to stay safe from COVID-19 as well as other dangerous viruses. According to experts, surgical masks offer you protection to some extent, but it isn’t the ideal option for safety against the coronavirus.

Conclusion

Everything that a person must know about the COVID-19, also known as the novel coronavirus, was discussed here. What matters is how much we remember and how careful we are about our surroundings. Moreover, if you develop any symptoms, then it is best to stay indoors and consult a doctor. By putting many provinces on lockdown for a long time, China has successfully slowed the spread of COVID-19. China’s measure is aggressive but very effective in saving lives. The cost for China is huge, but it also saved a lot of time for the rest of the world.

The world should unite together as one to fight against COVID-19, and China is also sending experts to those countries where help is needed. Staying clean should be your primary goal, and keeping a hand sanitizer with you at all times is recommended. Wear a mask according to the instructions that we discussed and wash your hands frequently. Most importantly, if you have any symptoms, always stay home and contact the relevant department via phone in your country to ask for help first.

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Ambu Vijayan

Life Science Enthusiast | Former Young Professional at ICAR - Indian Institute of Spices Research | Former Research Associate at ICAR CTCRI | Graduated from Kerala Agricultural University

Ambu Vijayan has 7 posts and counting. See all posts by Ambu Vijayan

Ambu Vijayan