Surgical mask effectiveness for protection against colds and flu

Surgical mask against flu

In this post we will discuss surgical mask effectiveness for protection against colds and flu.

The idea of using face masks for protection against colds and flu is not useless, but there are nuances.

Wearing a surgical mask is clearly associated with the prevention of influenza and ARVI. These respiratory (respiratory tract) infections are transmitted by airborne droplets. It would seem that the mask in this case becomes a barrier and helps not to get sick. But it’s not so simple.

Who is actually protected by a surgical mask?

Doctors and nurses wear a mask to protect the patient from bacteria and viruses that can live with health workers, like all people, in the airways and in the mouth. This is a standard measure when examined if the physician is ill, and also during an operation or procedure – when it is necessary to provide sterile conditions.

When talking, during coughing or sneezing, just on exhalation, mucus containing microorganisms flies out. If there is a water-repellent material in the mask (for example, surgical), it can also protect the personnel from getting the patient’s biological fluids on the skin and the mucous membranes of the mouth and nose.

The mask does not protect the respiratory organs of the person on whom it is worn, so it is not considered a means of personal respiratory protection (RPE). Why? Because the mask loosely adheres to the face and through the free areas, the polluted air enters the interior bypassing the filter material.

Scientists of Nizhny Novgorod Research Institute of Hygiene and Occupational Pathology of the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation have experimentally determined that penetration of aerosols from the outside through a surgical mask is more than 34%Masks and respirators in medicine: the choice and use , while for the weakest RPE this indicator should not exceed 22%.

To ensure maximum protection, the face mask must be the choice and specificity of the use of personal respiratory protective equipment completely cover the face. The surgical mask is a half mask (protects the mouth, nose and closes the chin) or quartermask – it covers only the mouth and nose. Thus, its main function is to reduce the allocation of infection from the human respiratory system to the environment and prevent infection of others.

Surgical mask against flu

When surgical mask is useless

If the person’s eyes in the mask remain unprotected, then this will not stop some infections. Proven Influenza Virus Respiratory Infection and Transmission Following Ocular Inoculation in Ferrets , that the influenza virus upon contact with the mucous membrane (conjunctiva) of the eye, and then through the nasolacrimal canals (two anatomical strokes on the sides of the nose, connect the eye and nose) to the nasal mucosa can cause a typical picture of the disease .

Some of the pathogens are transmitted as follows: during the time the patient speaks, sneezes or coughs, it pollutes the surrounding objects. Insemination also occurs when the patient first touches his nose or mouth (corrects the mask), and then – to something around. Further, a healthy person contacts the infected object, and then touches his own eyes, mouth or nose. Frequent hand washing with soap or treating them with an antiseptic is capable ofPhysical interventions to interrupt or reduce the spread of respiratory viruses: systematic review reduce morbidity.

When surgical mask works

Then, when it is part of a set of preventive measures. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends Interim Guidance for the Use of Masks to Control Seasonal Influenza Virus Transmission the health care provider should wear a surgical mask on a person immediately as soon as the first signs of infection are revealed and isolated in a separate room. Medical workers caring for patients should wear gloves, a robe and either a protective mask with a mask or a mask in combination with safety glasses for their safety.

In the instruction for a specific type of mask, the time of its use is indicated (usually no more than two hours). Do not wear it any longer. Also, you cannot smoke, eat or drink, moving the mask to the side: this will eliminate all attempts to protect yourself.

If the face mask is wet, it must be changed immediately. After changing the mask, the hands should be thoroughly washed with soap or treated with an antiseptic gel on an alcohol base.


CDC does not recommend Interim Guidance for the Use of face masks to Control Seasonal Influenza Virus Transmission surgical mask as a means of protection against infection with influenza. Wearing a mask should not be the only way to prevent disease. It does not provide your protection 100%, although it reduces the risk of infection. Only in combination with vaccination, thorough hand hygiene and quarantine measures, the mask is able to significantly contain the spread of infection.

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