Why Wearing a Face Mask is Important

Over the past several weeks we have all been hearing about the importance of having and wearing a face mask when we have contact with anyone outside of homes. Most of the information we receive is self-explanatory and doesn’t take any background in medicine or infectious disease to have a basic understanding. However, there are a number of things people don’t fully understand when discussing the finer details of wearing a facial covering of any sort.

Face Masks Slow the Spread of COVID-19

“It’s complicated” says Alexandria Living. What many people don’t understand is the drive behind individuals wearing cloth coverings and simple face masks is to help prevent that person from disseminating the virus if they are a carrier; it is not an effective method of interruption if someone is trying to avoid becoming sick. This is due to the fact that the particles from most airborne illnesses or viruses are not going to be filtered by a thin layer or layers of fabric; they can pass right through and won’t be stopped from entering the body.

It is also important to remember that these infections can live for several hours on the cloth or mask and can easily be transferred when touched. If you’ve been out in public with people wearing masks, it doesn’t take long to spot people messing with or adjusting their covering because it slipped, got in the way of a conversation, fogged up their glasses or a myriad of other reasons. Their fingers are now potentially tainted. So, for all the work people put into wearing those masks is all for not if they are naively touching their mask and face.

Face Masks Remind Us Not to Touch Our Faces

For the majority of us wearing a face covering is a new thing and a good reminder to avoid touching our faces. Studies have shown that people touch their faces an average of 23 times per hour, with almost half of those contacts being with “mucous membrane” areas (eyes, ears, mouth, nose), which are known to be sources of contagion over simple touch and skin oils.

As we get more accustomed to wearing the masks and decrease our proclivity toward unintentionally reach for our faces, the masks improve our success rate at containing the spread. The simple act of having the physical barrier in place helps to retrain our brain from continuing this habit.

Bonus: Showing Support for Frontline Health Workers

Though far from a health factor or concern, many healthcare professionals recognize that someone wearing a facial cover is someone showing a concerted effort to not be a transmitter of COVID-19. This outward expression of support goes a long way in encouraging others to follow suit.

Not everything is known about this virus: how it is passed along, why it affects some people and not others, if people can get it a second time. But if we can do our part in helping to slow or stop the spread, especially to our most vulnerable population, shouldn’t we be doing all we can?