Answers To Common Patient Questions Regarding Masks (Part 1)

Jon LensingJuly 09, 20202 minute read

Over the past several months, wearing masks while in public places or in groups of people has become increasingly recommended by government and health officials to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. Some cities and states have taken the request for mask-wearing further, passing short-term legislation requiring masks to be worn in public places.

However, as is common with many elements surrounding COVID-19, questions and concerns abound regarding the rise in mask recommendations. As a physician, you will likely engage with patients who have questions regarding the safety and effectiveness of masks. In this two-part blog post, the team at OpenLoop breaks down some of the most common questions regarding masks. As always, please refer to leading health organizations – such as the CDC – for the latest in mask guidance and updates.

Question 1: “What is the difference between N95 masks, surgical masks, and cloth masks?“

N95 masks, also known as N95 respirators, are personal protective equipment (PPE) used by healthcare professionals in high-risk environments where filtration is necessary. N95 masks can filter out up to 95% of airborne particles.

Due to the necessity of N95 masks being needed for healthcare professionals, the CDC does not recommend that the general public wear N95 masks for common use.

In addition to N95 masks, there are also surgical masks. Surgical masks are made in different thicknesses and have the ability to protect healthcare workers from contact with a variety of contaminants. Surgical masks are worn by healthcare professionals providing direct patient care in a variety of industries. Cloth masks are often made from a variety of cotton-based materials. Rather than filtering particles, these masks help stop the respiratory droplets that can spread COVID-19 while talking, sneezing, or coughing.

Question 2: “Do I really need to wear a mask everywhere?“

While they may be uncomfortable, masks are currently believed to be one of the best ways to protect others from the spread of COVID-19 outside of staying home.

The CDC currently recommends that anyone traveling outside their home wear a face covering, as they may be asymptomatic carriers regardless of symptoms. This is especially important if you need to visit a location in public where the six-foot social distancing guidance is difficult to maintain.

Question 3: “Will a cloth mask protect me from COVID-19?“

While a cloth mask will not guarantee protection from the virus that causes COVID-19, wearing one for protection isn’t the main reason for using a mask. Rather than protect yourself, cloth masks help protect others from coming into contact with respiratory droplets should you be infectious with the virus.

By wearing a cloth mask, you will stop the spread of droplets should you cough, sneeze, or simply talk! One of the best ways to protect yourself is to avoid touching the front of your mask and cleaning your mask should you reuse it regularly.

Keep Patients Calm & Confident With Knowledge

One of the best ways to serve patients during this time of confusion and anxiety is to offer clear and simple guidance to common questions. At OpenLoop, our team is constantly scanning the latest advice from health experts to provide physicians with updated resources. Stay tuned to our Physician Resource page for more content just like this!

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