Can Wearing a Mask Protect You From Coronavirus?

With mounting concern about the new coronavirus (2019-nCoV) from China, many people are trying to figure out the best ways to protect themselves and their loved ones from infection.

The most important thing to understand is that researchers are still trying to work out the ways that this new coronavirus is transmitted. In the meantime, the best advice based on CDC recommendations is to:

  1. Wash your hands thoroughly regularly throughout the day

  2. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.

  3. Avoid contact with people who are sick.

This advice will help protect you from a whole host of infections, including 2019-CoV.

Face masks can play a role in preventing the infection, but that role is limited in real-world situations.  There is some evidence that wearing a face mask can protect you from transmitting the virus from your hands to your mouth, probably because you are paying more attention to NOT touching your face when you’re wearing it. You also have some protection from “splash” droplets if an infected person sneezes or coughs around you.

The biggest concern that doctors have around recommending masks is the false sense of security that might come along with wearing one. There are a lot of reasons why face masks are not ideal. For example, it’s really hard to find one that fits perfectly around your nose and mouth or to keep it on for a long period of time. The minute you scratch your nose or touch your mouth behind the mask, you’ve lost the protection that the mask is supposed to offer.

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