Do medical masks protect against the flu?

Is this true? The World Health Organization considers masks an effective method of prevention. But they do not work as you think.

Let’s start with the theory

The causative agent of colds and flu is a virus. It is transmitted by airborne droplets from person to person during coughing or sneezing.

Viruses are incredibly small organisms, much smaller than bacteria, so penetrating through the fibers of the mask into your respiratory tract will not be difficult for them. Only a closed breathing system, like that of divers, can protect against viruses. Surely, you have not seen such people in the subway. So what’s the point of medical masks?

Airborne transmission means that viruses are contained in droplets of saliva or mucus. They cannot leave them until the droplet dries out. This means that the mask should be used by a person who is already sick — it will «catch» infected droplets!

Wearing a mask to avoid getting sick is pointless. But it is necessary to avoid infecting other people.

Remember a few rules regarding medical masks:

It should fit very tightly to the face, gaps will reduce protection to zero.The mask should cover the mouth and nose at the same time, otherwise it makes no senseThe mask needs to be changed about every hourUsing a mask if it has already become wet is prohibitedMedical masks are disposable, reuse makes them dangerous for other people. Dry viral particles will be «blown out» into the environmentThe mask can only be used by one person, passing it to other people can lead to infectionThe mask must be thrown away immediately after use, otherwise it will become a source of viruses

You might think, what about doctors? They often receive patients in a mask, although they are healthy. There are many reasons for this.

Firstly, a person with a respiratory infection or flu begins to spread the infection even before the onset of symptoms. Since doctors are constantly in contact with sick people, they may already be transmitting the infection, without suspecting it themselves.

Secondly, doctors often examine mucous membranes. Especially often this is done by ENT doctors, gynecologists, urologists, dentists… This significantly increases the risk of infecting the patient, when the flow of air from the doctor’s respiratory tract can directly contact the mucous membrane.

What other measures can be taken to protect against flu and respiratory infections?

Get a flu shot, we wrote more about this hereRegularly ventilate rooms to reduce the amount of virus in the airDo not touch your mouth, nose and eyes with dirty handsAvoid large crowdsStay at least 1 meter away from a person with a coldLead a healthy lifestyle