Thrive by IU Health

September 15, 2020

Wear a Mask Because You Care … and Because It Works

Wear a Mask Because You Care … and Because It Works

One of the best ways to protect yourself, your loved ones and the people in your community from COVID-19 and its spread is to wear a mask when going out in public. Masks provide a barrier to help prevent respiratory droplets from traveling through the air.

“Every time you breathe, talk, cough or sneeze, an aerosol of mucus membrane secretions is released through your nose and mouth,” says Ryan Relich, PhD, an infectious disease expert, medical microbiologist and virologist at the IU Health Pathology Lab and IU School of Medicine. “These respiratory droplets contain bacteria and may also contain virus particles that can reach others who are close by.”

The latest scientific studies show masks reduce the spray of respiratory droplets when the mask is worn over the nose and mouth.

“Evidence suggests that when two people are interacting and both are wearing masks, the chance of transmitting coronavirus (the virus that causes COVID-19) is lower than if one or both people are not wearing masks,” Dr. Relich says.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that people wear masks in public and when around others who don’t live in their household. This is especially important when social distancing—maintaining six feet of distance between yourself and others—is difficult. Coronavirus can be spread by people who don’t have symptoms and don’t know they are infected.

According to the CDC, masks should not be worn by:

  • Children under the age of 2
  • Anyone who has trouble breathing
  • A person who is unconscious, incapacitated or unable to remove the mask without assistance

Wearing a mask in public can save lives. For the latest resources and information about COVID-19, visit the IU Health COVID-19 Resource Center. Additional information about mask wearing and safety is also available on the CDC website.

Editor’s note: To help illustrate the effectiveness of masks, Dr. Relich, associate medical director of the IU Health Division of Clinical Microbiology, conducted a simple petri dish experiment for a local news report on mask wearing.

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