7 Reasons to Wear a Face Mask in 2020

To wear or not to wear? That is the hot topic of debate about face masks right now!

This is not a political issue, this is a human issue. Please consider my points below.

As a healthcare professional I believe it’s important to have a holistic point of view towards people’s health. I’m passionate about people staying healthy but it’s equally important to enjoy a good quality of life.

Nobody wants to be forced to do something they don’t agree with but in this pandemic climate I believe we have to consider others around us and we will all benefit in the long term.

For the purposes of this post a face mask can be a double-layered cloth covering or be medical standard upto and including those fancy FFP2 or KN95 masks!

Here is the list briefly if you want to skip the details:

  1. Consider others’ health especially vulnerable people
  2. Protect yourself from Covid-19, a new disease
  3. Setting an example for others to follow
  4. You only need to wear it in enclosed spaces
  5. Reduce exposure to pollution and pollen
  6. Protect yourself from other viruses
  7. It’s easy, affordable and could save lives

7 Reasons to wear a face mask from my point of view as a healthcare professional:

  1. Consider others’ health especially vulnerable people – It’s so important to recognize that we all need to protect our communities and not just ourselves! People come from all walks of life and backgrounds. You cannot tell straight away if somebody is healthy or they are vulnerable. Let’s discuss a few categories of vulnerable people that I come across in the Pharmacy every day.

    Pre-pregnancy and Pregnant women – Women who are trying for a baby may not be aware that they are pregnant! It is common practice as a Pharmacist to ask women if they are pregnant or trying for a baby in the pharmacy as generally the same rules apply – we cannot take a chance on the advice we give to assume they are not pregnant “yet” when they could be but just don’t know “yet“. So for this purpose pre-pregnancy and pregnant women are the same category. A pregnant lady has a lowered immune system. This makes them more vulnerable to being affected by infectious diseases. Specifically it means they cannot fight a disease in the same way as a healthy human – they will suffer for a longer duration of time, recover slowly and their body will endure higher stress levels. This increases their chance of health and birth complications. Let’s not forget that they are carrying a developing human who relies on their mother’s placenta and blood for resources to grow into a healthy baby. There have been cases of children being born with covid-19 as far back as March 2020. At the moment there aren’t many medicines which are approved for use in pregnant women and they would be difficult to treat – so best to stay as healthy as possible and reduce their risk of catching anything let alone Covid-19.

    Babies and children (up to 8 years old) – These little people (especially under 5 year olds) are vulnerable and require adults to look after them because they can’t look after themselves. Their immune systems are not fully developed – which is the main reason why we vaccinate against diseases from a young age to prevent early death. Not only that, it means they are highly susceptible to suffering long-term health damage especially if a disease takes hold during their rapid-growth phase of life. Also some children may have been born premature and have long-term health problems. Very young children also have the habit of putting things in their mouth, touching surfaces, sharing toys and have to be constantly cleaned-up after.

    Young people and adolescents (8 to 17 years old) – At around 8 years old a child’s immune system tends to be on the more developed side. Although youth is often synonymous with health, this period of time is when children are likely to be diagnosed with life-long diseases such as asthma or diabetes which in turn affect the response rate of their immune system. They also still need to be supervised by their parents or guardians which tends to reflect in their behaviors. Behaviors such as touching your face possibly due to being self-conscious, not washing your hands regularly (preferring to wipe on surfaces such as their clothes) and resisting advice such as not socialising – all known to increase the risk of becoming infected.

    Seemingly healthy 18 to 60 year olds – People’s health records are confidential for many reasons. Would you tell somebody all of your weaknesses before you got to know them? I should hope not! You would become instantly vulnerable and people could manipulate or take advantage of you. It’s safe to not assume that people in this age category are as healthy as they seem. People could: have had a recent organ transplant, be going through cancer treatment, require blood transfusions to stay alive, be genetically deficient in certain immune cells or are actively trying to manage their diabetes. The list is endless. These all make people more vulnerable to dying from infections as their immune systems are compromised. Please consider that you cannot know everything about anyone immediately. Even in my profession I only get a small snapshot of their health status which I am there to help them with as best as I can.

    Those 60 years old and beyond – A declining immune system is what makes this group vulnerable. In this day and age of aesthetic enhancements (botox, fillers etc.) it might be more difficult than ever to tell how old a person is. I definitely experience this first-hand in the pharmacy and I have the advantage of accessing their confidential medical records! Looks are most definitely deceiving so never assume someone’s age. There are many diseases at this age which tend to be advanced such as heart disease, lung disease and kidney disease to name a few Recovery rates are much slower at this age and they also tend to suffer from permanent damage if it occurs due to a decline in the body to repair itself.

    You may have noticed that essentially at any age, gender or health status everyone is vulnerable and there is no way to determine what someone’s body is going through unless you are their healthcare professional. Wearing a mask protects other people from you if you are a potential carrier – which is very difficult to determine as people show symptoms at different stages of the disease depending on their own personal immune system health.

    There are a minimum number of microbes you need to be exposed to for a disease to infect you. When a person has a compromised immune system the minimum number is even lower for them so they are at higher risk of becoming infected. Please consider this fact as we do not know the minimum number for Covid-19 yet.

  2. Protect yourself from Covid-19, a new disease – It’s important to emphasise that Covid-19 is still a new disease – this makes it high risk for everyone – even those who have already had the disease.

    We are trying to figure out the short-term and long-term implications of being infected. We don’t know if we can naturally develop a meaningful immunity from being infected or how long antibodies last for. Research takes time and although there is a lot of optimism regarding “winning the fight” with a vaccine we are definitely in it for the long haul. Don’t forget that there could be a mutated strain of the disease we are yet to discover!

    A mask is a physical barrier to potential infectious particles that you might inhale and also reduces the likelihood of touching your own mouth and nose area with unclean hands which spreads the disease.

    The fear of the unknown about this disease should drive people to be vigilant until we know enough that we can be confident to beat it!

  3. Setting an example for others to follow – People tend to follow positive, beneficial trends. It is already part of everyday culture in Asia for example to protect each other from spreading disease in general. Humans are social creatures and we all want to get back to our “normal” lives. I believe it is in our best interests to encourage and spread the word about the benefits of wearing a mask so we can all win together.

  4. You only need to wear it in enclosed spaces – The problem with Covid-19 being a potentially air-borne virus (which means it is spread through breathing other people’s expelled microscopic air droplets) means that in enclosed spaces there is limited ventilation so it hangs around in the air longer which increases the potential for you to breath it in!

    Examples of enclosed spaces include vehicles such as cars, buses, trains and planes. We all use transportation to get us to places but one of the reasons why Covid-19 spread so far and wide beyond its point of origin is because we all share the air we breath on the aforementioned transport methods so wearing a mask now prevents further spread and could allow us to finally travel again safely. It’s no surprise then that respiratory infections are the leading causes of death in the world.

    Consider small spaces such as shops, restaurants, places of entertainment and our homes – these tend to be areas where we spend intimate and long periods of time with other people such as our work colleagues, friends and family. The longer you spend with someone the more likely you are to breath in more of what they are breathing out. It might be a good idea to try to filter as much of that air as possible in a pandemic situation so wearing a mask is ideal.

    In low-density areas of people where there is good ventilation and space for everyone to spread out there is less likely an urgent need to wear a mask. Parks are large spaces where we can enjoy the outdoors and socially distance from others safely. Walking outside away from other people on the street or running is also less likely to require wearing a mask.

    So please keep active, ride your bicycle or go for a walk, but please do it safely.

  5. Reduce exposure to pollution and pollen – Some people may be concerned about wearing a mask due to potential breathing restrictions. However, masks are designed to be breathable. They filter the air you are breathing in and out. It may be uncomfortable at first but you will experience more benefits to breathing filtered air than unfiltered air. It might be worth likening it to filtered or unfiltered water – which do you prefer and which do you think is better for your body to process?

    If you wear a mask then you are generally breathing in less chemical pollution – especially if you live in a city or a shopping on a busy high street where there is a lot of vehicle pollution or construction work. The quality of the air around us which fills the shops, restaurants and even our homes that we go to has been in rapid decline and is a known risk factor for lung diseases.

    Air particles, such as pollen, which you may be sensitive or allergic to that cause inflammatory reactions in people with conditions, like asthma or hay fever, are also filtered out by the mask. With the weather becoming warmer and people spending more time outside, it makes sense to shield ourselves from these particles too. You might find that you need less medication to control reactions to these particles.

  6. Protect yourself from other viruses – Beyond Covid-19, people may have other viruses or bacteria they could be spreading to you. Avoid catching the flu or a cold for example. Winter is coming and we need to develop good social habits now to reduce the likelihood of a resurgence of Covid-19 as well as the possibility of a particularly virulent and unpleasant strain of flu.

  7. It’s easy, affordable and could save lives – There are a lot of options when it comes to possessing and using a face mask- we are practically spoiled for choice. You can make one yourself out of a sock or a t-shirt and you don’t need to sew anything. They are available for as little as 50p or cheaper for a disposable no-fuss medical mask. Most masks are also reusable or washable (if fabric) as you only wear them for short periods of time. They are also often given out for FREE when you enter a shop or have to go on public transport or even a plane.

    The tragedy of Covid-19 spreading rapidly and leading to the untimely passing of people’s loved ones indiscriminately is really the reason at the heart of people now adopting the act of wearing a mask. We definitely as a community do not want history to repeat itself.

In summary, when you wear a mask you are communicating to those around you that you are caring and considerate without having to say anything.

Please leave a comment or share this post if you found it useful. It would be lovely to receive feedback on this topic or any topics you would like me to address in future!

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I am a UK GPhC registered Pharmacist in London

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