Why you should consider wearing a face mask
The chances are, prior to 2020 you had never considered wearing a face mask or face covering on a day-to-day basis. Then the world changed.
On your trips to the supermarket or when out for a daily stroll, you’ve no doubt noticed more and more people keeping their mouths and noses under wraps. With our old lives on hold, the proliferation and popularity of masks is a clear marker that we’re growing accustomed to a ‘new normal’.
It is important to understand the clear distinction between the various masks available on the market and to recognise, as stated by the World Health Organization, that they are only effective in combination with frequent hand-cleaning using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
Surgical masks – usually worn by medical professionals – are designed to prevent infections by catching bacteria that emanate from the wearer’s mouth and nose. In contrast, respirator masks, which include Euro-certified FFP2, FFP3 and US-certified N95 and N99 varieties, filter out particles in the air and can offer protection against influenza viruses. Covaflu is currently supplying FFP3 masks to healthcare professionals only, with FFP2 masks also available to the general public.
While advice on the need to wear masks varies from country to country, some have been persuaded to make a purchase based on the following reasons.
It’s now advised to use them in public
On Sunday 10 May, Boris Johnson laid out his government’s plans for the phased easing of lockdown restrictions in England. The following day, a document outlining new rules advised that people should now aim to wear face coverings on public transport and in some shops; basically, in enclosed spaces where you might come into contact with people you don’t know. Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, had already said similar. It is stressed that face coverings should not be used as an alternative to other precautions, including social distancing and hand washing.
Protect others from your germs
While protecting a mask wearer from infection can be difficult – it requires properly fitting medical-grade respirator masks – wearing a covering does minimise the chance of transmitting an infection to someone else. After all, unless you’ve been given the all-clear following a test, you may not know whether you have a virus or not. Some people show no symptoms. Covering your mouth and nose stops the spread of droplets. It’s a bit like turning off a tap. Fewer infectious particles in the air, in theory, means more people have a chance of avoiding infection. There’s the added advantage that wearing a mask reminds you not to touch your face.
Ease your anxiety
It’s no secret that Mental health charities in the UK have reported a marked increase in calls since the lockdown conditions were imposed. Unfamiliar circumstances, relentless news coverage, reduced access to some usual services and worries about being infected have caused anxiety for many. While wearing a mask is no guarantee against infection, psychotherapists have suggested they could soothe anxiety by giving an illusion of being in control. When we’re anxious, we reason that something must be risky. If we can reduce the anxiety, we can convince ourselves that the level of risk we face is somehow lower. If you’re having to return to work and you’re able to reduce underlying anxiety about the situation by wearing a mask, then it’s worth considering. Of course, it is important to remember that you can still be infected and should follow ALL other guidance on minimising the spread of bacteria.
Help reduce mask stigma
Even on London’s packed transport system, the sight of someone, often tourists, sporting a face mask was a rarity until recently. Because it was not a cultural norm, their decision to cover their mouth and nose could elicit surprised glances from fellow commuters. In the States there have been many reports of Asian mask wearers even being the subject of abuse. Attitudes in the UK are changing rapidly and if the government’s new advice is taken seriously, masks could become the norm and even fashionable, as they have done in parts of the Far East. In wearing a mask, it could be said that people are actively communicating their responsibility to the society to which they belong. In turn, those not wearing them could be the focus of distrust. An intriguing turnaround.
Since the tail-end of last year, the WHO has maintained that healthy people do not need to wear masks unless they are tending to someone who is sick or suspected of being infected. Among their reasons is a fear that a clamour from the wider community to use masks will take them away from those in health care who need them most. At Covaflu, all our masks are sourced separately to NHS requirements and do not impact on NHS supplies, so you can rest easy that your purchase is not disrupting vital supply chains.
Have you got a health question?
We've teamed up with AXA PPP healthcare to bring you articles, information and tips from their clinical teams on a wide range of health topics. And if you have a question of your own, their, "Ask the Expert" service allows you to ask the team of friendly, experienced nurses, pharmacists and midwives about any health topic and they'll get back to you with an answer as soon as they’re able.* So if you have something that’s been bothering you, whether it concerns you or someone close to you, don’t hesitate to get in touch.
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* Nurses are available 24/7, 365 days a year. Midwives and pharmacists are available Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm; Saturday, 8am to 4pm; and Sunday, 8am to 12pm.
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