It's not uncommon to see people wearing face masks during cold and flu season, especially in larger cities. This year, it seems like more and more people are wearing masks to try and prevent respiratory viruses, like the coronavirus, from spreading — but is this an effective strategy?
Dr. Travis Stork from "The Doctors" says that while wearing over-the-counter surgical masks or construction masks might help prevent germs from spreading, they aren't necessarily beneficial for preventing respiratory viruses.
Unless you have a hospital-grade mask, you should focus on flu prevention and take other precautions to prevent getting sick, he says.
Hospital-grade N95 respirator masks are designed "for healthcare settings or for particular situations where you're really, really at risk," the doc says. N95 masks protect the wearer from small particles in the air that may contain viruses.
The doc demonstrates how loose-fitting surgical face masks like those worn by doctors, dentists and nurses still allow plenty of air to come through the sides, making them less effective at preventing the spread of respiratory viruses.
It doesn't hurt to wear a face mask, Travis says, especially if you are sick and you have to be in close contact with others. If you aren't feeling sick, a mask might provide you with some additional protection, but it's still extremely important to wash your hands often, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth and to get your flu shot each year.