To prevent the spread of infectious diseases, many people reach for face masks — and when pandemics like the coronavirus occur, there are sometimes even mask shortages among the general public. But experts say masks aren’t always the best route for warding off infection, and in the case of coronavirus, the CDC is specifically advising that people do not need to wear face masks unless a health care worker specifically recommends it to you, or you work in health care yourself, you already have COVID-19, or are taking care of someone who does.
According to Michael Chang, an infectious disease specialist at McGovern Medical School at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, masks are usually used by health care providers in hospitals and clinics, where the risk of transmitting or catching an illness is higher.
“In the health care setting we primarily use masks to isolate people both the people who are taking care of patients as well as protecting the patients from the providers potentially spreading something to them,” he says. “They can offer two-way protection.”
There are two types of masks used in preventing infections: surgical masks and respirator masks. It’s important to know the difference, and which situations they’re useful in, as well as when other wellness hygiene tactics might better serve you.
How are respirator masks different from surgical masks?