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Why Have Medical Face Masks Become So Controversial?

Nov 05,2021 by Edulab

For the last year, face masks have become an everyday part of our lives. Many of us no longer leave the house without making sure we have a face mask with us, and there are still some restrictions in place requiring you to cover your face in certain settings. Despite them being a new feature in most of our lives in the last 18 months, these same face masks have been part of the medical world for decades.

Doctors, surgeons, pharmacists, and scientists have all been covering their faces with masks of one kind or another for centuries. Even certain types of tradesmen, who need to prevent inhalation of contaminated / hazardous air.

The Coronavirus pandemic has caused some people to question the effectiveness of these masks, and left people wondering if medical face masks can actually prevent the spread of bacteria and viruses.

What Do Medical Face Masks Do?

Medical face masks are a type of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), which cover the nose and mouth. Typically, they are made from a loose fitting, disposable material and sit from the top of the nose down the chin. They are fixed on with ear loops which go around the back of each ear and stay close to the face while wearing.

The fabric works to protect individuals from respiratory droplets, which may contain bacteria or viral particulate. Face masks can shield the wearer from breathing in harmful germs, while also preventing their droplets from getting out into the air. Not only that, but medical face masks can filter out any particles in the air which are very large.

Why Are Face Masks Used by The Medical Profession?

Face coverings in one form or another have been used by medical professionals for hundreds of years. Back in the Middle Ages, doctors who were treating patients with the bubonic plague donned beak-like masks in an effort to protect themselves from the disease as well as the harmful air, which was thought to have caused the epidemic.

Over the years, face masks have been used by medical professionals for a number of reasons. In the 1800s, various research was published that investigate the development of infections caused by droplets, which only further encouraged the use of face coverings. By 1910, these face masks became the norm in all surgeries and in general hospitals. This is because medical professionals realised the protection they provided against disease and bacteria.

So, They’re Used to Protect People. Makes Sense!

That’s right. Doctors, nurses, surgeons, and other medical professionals all wear face masks for patient interactions and surgeries. They prevent these individuals from picking up infectious bacteria from patients and passing them on to others. Especially the patient.

During surgeries, the risk of infection or disease is extremely high, and extra care must be taken to ensure the entire area is sanitised. Medical face masks can stop potential pathogens from contaminating these areas and potentially infecting the patient.

Do Medical Face Masks Really Help Prevent the Spread of Covid?

The fact this type of product is listed as PPE, is a big giveaway.

The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and The World Health Organisation (WHO) both recommended the general public use face coverings to stop the spread of Covid. Despite all this, some people are still not confident that masks can really prevent Coronavirus spreading from person to person.

Covid is a respiratory virus which is spread by droplets in the air and on surfaces. Every time someone who is infected with Covid talks, coughs or sneezes, they will be spreading these droplets around them. Wearing a medical face mask puts up a barrier to prevent these droplets from getting to other people and spreading in the air. They will be blocked by the face covering and contained on the infected individual.

It isn’t just those infected with Covid that should wear medical face masks, as those who are not can protect themselves by covering their nose and mouth. This will prevent droplets in the air from getting into their system.

What Are the Different Types Of Face Mask?

There are various different types of face mask available, each with their own unique features and benefits. The main types of medical face masks are:

  • Surgical Face Mask: Surgical masks are made from a thin material which is disposable. These are the most common type of mask for medical professionals because they offer good protection while also being easy to breath and comfortable.
  • N95 Respirator Mask: This type of mask is not recommended for the general public, but they are crucial for healthcare workers. They offer increased protection from not only droplets but any particles in the air.
  • Face Shield: Some medical professionals wear face shields which cover the entire face. These plastic pieces of equipment don’t just protect the nose and mouth, but also the eyes. They are not ideal for medical use as they are difficult to breath in for long periods.

Read more information on why face masks are necessary during Covid pandemic, and advice on choose the right mask for you.