Should We All Wear Masks for Coronavirus?

April 29, 2020
The issue of masks during the coronavirus pandemic is a topic of constant discussion. While many countries recommend the continued use of protection to go out on the streets, the WHO has also provided its expert opinion. So, should we all wear masks during this pandemic? Let's find out.

Determining if we should all wear masks during the coronavirus pandemic has become one of the big questions that have led many to a constant search for information. Both the general population and decision-makers are debating whether or not to use this protective material.

The World Health Organization (WHO) itself has intervened, and, as you’ll see below, has clarified some points on the issue. However, there are countries and regions where the use of masks has already been inforced by law and, therefore, you have no choice in the matter.

In any case, it’s important to know how to wear them correctly as well as which masks are necessary for each situation. A mouth mask isn’t the same as a surgical mask, just as not all other regular masks are the same, either.

In this article, we’re going to explain the types of nasal-mouth protection that exist, and then comment on what the WHO says about them. Finally, we’ll touch on some questions about their use that must be met in order for them to be effective.

As you’ll see, not all of us should wear masks during the coronavirus pandemic, but we should masks when encouraged or required to do so by health authorities.

Types of masks to use during a pandemic

In this coronavirus pandemic, we’re faced with a major question regarding whether or not we have to wear masks.

Well, in the first place, we have to abide by the laws of the country or state we’re living in. If the authorities there require you to wear a mask to move around the area, then there’s no point in discussing it.

However, it’s also important to remember that a mouth mask isn’t the same as a surgical mask, nor is it the same as a regular face mask. The former are objects made of non-filtering materials. Their function is to reduce the dispersion of respiratory droplets from an infected person into the environment. In other words, they don’t protect a person from becoming infected. However, the can reduce the probability of the disease spreading.

Then we have the surgical mask, which is the classic rectangle with folds that you hook behind your ears. These don’t have filters either. Like the mouth masks, they don’t prevent a person from becoming infected but they do reduce the dispersion of respiratory droplets. It’s a physical barrier.

Ultimately, masks with filters come in three basic varieties, according to their filtering capacity. The first level is FFP1, which isn’t capable of stopping viral particles. The second and third level ones -FFP2 and FFP3 masks – are recommended to prevent contagion, since their filtering capacity ranges from 92% to 98%.

A face mask.
The use of special masks should be reserved for health professionals. The general population should only wear regular masks.

Read on: Making Cloth Masks to Protect You from COVID-19

What does the WHO recommend?

The World Health Organization has created a document with recommendations for whether or not everyone should wear masks during a coronavirus pandemic. This document is frequently modified according to the new evidence that becomes available.

The WHO clarifies that, to date, there are no definitive scientific studies that have proven the effectiveness of mask use in the general population. This doesn’t mean that they discourage their use. However, they do make it clear that there isn’t any specific research to back it up.

Ideally, we should wear homemade masks, so that the availability of protective elements that could be used by health professionals doesn’t run out. Both surgical masks and face masks can have limited availability, and there are geographical areas where they’re in short supply. The priority should be making sure there are enough masks for our healthcare professionals.

Meanwhile, the decision-makers in different countries need to consider these recommendations and apply them to their cases. The WHO suggests that masks shouldn’t make their use mandatory until they can ensure their availability for healthcare professionals. Similarly, there should be clear publicity campaigns explaining how to use them correctly.

A doctor with a mask.
There are differences between a mouth mask, a surgical mask, and a face mask. Each element has its own indication.

Find out more: Why So Many Health Care Workers Are Infected With Coronavirus

Techniques for using masks

Mouth masks, surgical masks, and face masks all have a correct way of using them. The effectiveness of the measure depends on their correct use:

  • The way to take off the mask when arriving back home is fundamental. Don’t touch the area that’s in contact with your mouth and nose when taking it off. Also, it’s advisable to leave the mask in a specific area of the house.
  • If the mouthpiece gets wet during its use, then you should replace it. Moisture decreases the filtering capacity of respiratory droplets. Similarly, you shouldn’t use the same mask to enter different places; experts recommend at least two options.
  • Although it’s called a mouth mask, it should cover both the mouth and the nose. Both cavities can expel respiratory droplets, so you should cover both.

Should we all wear masks during the pandemic?

In conclusion, if your country or region has legislation on the use of face masks, then you should follow them.

The important thing is their correct usage and understanding exactly what they should be used for. The aim is to reduce the circulation of respiratory droplets in the air, but under no circumstances do they prevent us from becoming infected. They are simply a barrier.

  • Quiroz-Romero, Fernando. “Mascarillas quirúrgicas a propósito del COVID-19: Algunos aspectos técnicos.” Revista Colombiana de Cirugía 35.2 (2020): 200-202.
  • Benitez-Peche, Jorge Marko. “Sobre el uso o no de mascarillas, tan incierto como el nuevo coronavirus.” Revista Experiencia en Medicina del Hospital Regional Lambayeque 6.1 (2020).
  • Velavan, Thirumalaisamy P., and Christian G. Meyer. “The COVID-19 epidemic.” Trop Med Int Health 25.3 (2020): 278-280.