Healthy people do not need breathing masks – according to the WHO

The fear of the corona virus is so great that many people buy supermarkets and pharmacies empty. The further the corona epidemic spreads, the more people hoard respirators. The high close question also drives prices up. The great interest in breathing masks at the moment is understandable, but completely unnecessary. According to experts, only infected and medical personnel should wear such masks. In the first place are hand hygiene and keeping a distance from other people.

Respirators are not for healthy people, according to the WHO

Respirators are not an effective way to prevent the disease for healthy people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization (WHO). Surgical masks are uncomfortable, so you may need to adjust and touch them frequently with your hands. Or you pull them far over your chin to eat, drink or smoke and then put them back on. This misses the point and increases the risk of infection.

When should you use a mask? (according to WHO)

Woman wearing respirator in public

– If you are healthy, you only need to wear a mask if you are caring for someone suspected of having Covid 2019 infection.
– Wear a mask when you cough or sneeze.
– Masks are only effective when used in combination with frequent hand washing or disinfecting.
– If you wear a mask, you need to know how to use it and how to properly dispose of it!


If you in close contact with an infected person a mask reduces the risk of the disease being passed on. If you show symptoms of a coronavirus or have been diagnosed, wearing a mask can also protect others. Masks are therefore vital for health and social workers who care for patients and are also recommended to family members who need to care for someone who is ill – ideally, both the patient and the caregiver should have a mask. It does not make sense if you only walk through the city with a face mask and are also 2 meters away from other people.

Wear masks in public

There are now also some cases in which people have contracted patients who apparently had no symptoms. The coronavirus incubation period is 2 to 14 days. On average, it takes 5 to 6 days from the moment of infection to the time when the first symptoms appear. If you suspect that you may have been infected, but do not show any symptoms yet, it would make sense to wear a mask to protect others. The correct application of the mask is of crucial importance.

How sensible it is to wear breathing masks

Both the surgical masks and the N95 respirators should only be used once and then disposed of. Medical personnel use a new mask for each patient, in part because the masks can become contaminated by viruses during use. But since masks are scarce, consumers could be tempted to reuse them and possibly spread the virus to other surfaces or objects. To prevent this possibility, healthcare workers clean their hands every time they remove a mask.

Woman wearing cloth mask and waiting at the bus stop

As for the washable fabric masks that are offered for sale, there are indications that reusable masks are not the best option. A 2015 BMJ study found that healthcare workers who use cloth masks are more likely to be infected with respiratory diseases than those who use disposable surgical masks, even if workers wash them at the end of each of their shifts. The penetration of fabric masks through particles was almost 97% and that of medical masks was 44%. In general, the contamination potential of such fabric masks is a real problem, especially if they are not cleaned properly. Should you still choose a reusable mask, it is advisable to wash it at a higher temperature, at least 70 – 90 degrees, and then iron it.

How should one wear the respirators and how should they be disposed of?

Really protect surgical respirators from coronavirus

However, a good protective effect is only given if the face masks are used correctly. According to the WHO, the following rules should be followed:

– Disinfect your hands with an alcohol-based hand disinfectant or with liquid soap and water before putting on the mask.
– Cover your mouth and nose with the mask. Bend the metal strip over the bridge of the nose and make sure there are no gaps between the face and mask.
– Avoid touching the mask during use; if you touch the mask, disinfect your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer or with liquid soap and water.
– Replace the mask with a new one as soon as it is wet and do not use disposable masks twice.
– Remove the mask from behind (do not touch the front of the mask). Dispose of them immediately in a closed waste bin; Then wash your hands thoroughly with soap.


What should you do to protect yourself?

Everyone should take the following measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and other infections:

– Wash your hands frequently and follow the recommended 20 second wash time.

– Use a hand disinfectant if you cannot wash your hands – e.g. after touching a handrail, a doorknob or in public transport.

– It is important not to touch your face, as this is how viruses are transmitted from your hands to your mouth or nose and get into your body. It's easy to say, but hard to do? Here are some tips to change this habit.

– Keep 2 meters away when walking through the supermarket or waiting in line. Avoid shaking hands. With viruses that are transmitted by droplets, it is important not to get as close to one another, not to cough up and not to have long speech contacts at close range. It's best to stay at home!



World Health Organization / When and how to use a mask

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How to protect yourself

Study in the journal BMJ on the effectiveness of fabric masks compared to medical masks

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