Can Face Masks Protect You from COVID-19?

Published on: 14/02/2020

Some of your questions answered whether you need a face mask to protect yourself from the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

The world is facing the latest public health dilemma: the outbreak of the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).  As of this moment, this disease that originated from Wuhan, China last December 2019, has not yet found its cure. And as fear of contracting the virus rises across the globe, everyone has been panic buying a face mask. 

There's currently a high demand for these face masks (even among those who are perfectly healthy). Due to this, stores quickly run out of stocks. You may be getting one, but you're probably thinking (and most of us are) when does a person actually need to wear one? And if yes, what kind?

We've gathered all the possible inquiries you may have regarding this matter. Here are the answers to some of your questions about face masks.

When do I need to wear a face mask?

According to the Department of Health in the Philippines, there's no need to wear a face mask in public if you're not showing any symptoms of flu (cough, colds, or respiratory symptoms).

You only need to wear face masks if:

  • You have a cough, colds, respiratory symptoms, or difficulty in breathing
  • You're taking care of someone who has cough, colds, or respiratory symptoms
  • You're a health worker and taking care of a patient showing cough, colds, or respiratory symptoms

What should I keep in mind when I'm wearing a face mask?

Dr. Edsel Salvana (NIH’s Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology Director) said that if you're wearing a surgical face mask, make sure you're covering your nose and mouth. The blue or colored side should be facing out.

Also, it's best not to touch the outside part of it. In case you touched it, just wash your hands properly with soap and water. 

What kind of face mask should I wear?

While an N95 respirator mask is far more effective in protecting you from airborne infections, disposable face masks are already enough to block big particles from reaching your mouth.

Moreover, Dr. Salvana added that people should also stop hoarding N95 masks since the masks are prioritized to be used by health workers handling tuberculosis patients.

Are cloth face masks effective?

Unfortunately, cloth face masks are not recommended to use since they do not have filters like surgical masks or respirator masks do, according to Dr. Edsel Salvana.

Aside from wearing a face mask, what are other prevention tips?

  • Proper hygiene is key! Don't forget to wash your hands with water and soap (a minimum of 20 seconds). If they are not available,  opt for alcohol or a hand sanitizer.
  • It's best to avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unclean hands.
  • Keep your distance from people who are sick.
  • Stay at home if you are sick.
  • If you're sick, cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and then throw it in the trash can appropriately.
  • Disinfect often touched objects and surfaces.