Should the elderly wear surgical masks?

The coronavirus has been affecting the whole world. Millions of people were infected and there were deaths. Millions have already recovered, but while some countries are already getting the vaccine, the virus continues to become a threat, not just in the United States but to all other countries around the globe. 

The coronavirus is spread through respiratory droplets that are produced when talking, coughing, or sneezing. Thus, it is important to keep yourself protected by wearing a mask. 

There are different types of face masks widely used for coronavirus protection like the N95 mask, surgical mask, cloth mask, and non-medical disposable face mask. However, the N95 mask and the surgical mask, because of the high demand, is only recommended for healthcare workers. But, how about the elderly and persons with underlying medical conditions?

Is the surgical mask suitable for the elderly?

It is true that older people have an increased risk of getting the coronavirus. However, wearing a surgical mask is not recommended. 

The surgical mask has a loose-fitting design and it can provide protection against blood spatter and other bodily fluid but because of its design that is meant for medical use, the mask is not suitable for the elderly. Older people are encouraged to wear a reusable cloth mask. It is more breathable than the surgical mask and it can still provide the protection they needed.

How about the N95 mask?

Just like the surgical mask, the N95 mask is not recommended for older people. Yes, it offers better protection but it is not breathable. The N95 mask is also reserved for the medical and healthcare workers who are still fighting to save lives and prevent the spread of the virus.

The N95 mask has a filtering capacity of 95%. It can filter tiny airborne particles and respiratory droplets. But for older people, and high-risk individuals, the N95 mask is not suitable. 

Choosing the right mask for the elderly and high-risk individual

Cloth masks are reusable. They come in different types of fabrics, styles, and designs. They are also available in different sizes for adults and kids. The cloth mask serves as a barrier between the wearer and the possible germs or contaminants in the immediate surroundings. 

When choosing a cloth mask for older people, keep in mind the following:

  • Choose a mask that has a nice fit, covering the mouth and the nose. There should be no gaps around the sides of the face, nose, and chin. It is even best to wear a cloth mask that has adjustable straps for a more secure, and personalized fit.
  • Make sure the mask is breathable and the senior can easily breathe through the mask. The wearer should be able to wear the mask for hours without having a hard time breathing in.
  • It is advisable to wash the mask every day or every after use. 

Here's is how to clean the cloth mask:

  • Include your cloth mask with your regular laundry.
  • Use regular soap and use warm water appropriate for the cloth used to make the mask.
  • In the dryer, leave the mask in the highest heat setting until it is completely dried out.

Wearing a cloth mask may be uncomfortable at first but seniors will get used to it and the discomfort will become less of an issue. Wearing a mask is not enough to stop from getting the virus. Social distancing and frequent hand washing should always be observed.

Other mask options and how to properly wear them

The CDC recommends the public to wear a face mask in the public setting. These masks could be a disposable, non-medical mask, or cloth mask. The general public should wear a mask when at gatherings, riding a mass or public transportation, and when in the crowd.

Here are some recommendations:

  • Wear a mask that has two or more layers of breathable fabric. 
  • Do wear a mask that completely covers your mouth and nose.
  • Choose a mask that fits snugly on the sides of your face (no gaps).
  • Do not wear a mask that is difficult to breathe in, like vinyl material.
  • Do not wear a mask with exhalation valves because it allows virus particles to escape.
  • If you wear glasses, to avoid fogging, wear a mask that fits closely to your nose or a mask with an adjustable nose clip.
  • For children, purchase a mask intended for children. 
  • For cold weather, scarves should not be considered as a substitute for a face mask. Always wear the scarf over the face mask.
  • Do not wear the mask around your neck, on your forehead, under the nose, under the chin, and on your arm.

Above anything else, it is important to remember that N95 masks and surgical masks are only intended for healthcare workers. Also, do not put a mask on children younger than two years old.

Other considerations

It is advisable to let children, 2 years and above, to wear a face mask for protection. It is not necessary to wear an N95 mask or a surgical mask. Children can wear cloth masks. There are small sizes of cloth masks for kids and these masks provide better-fitting than the regular, adult-sized face masks.

Aside from children, pregnant women should also wear face masks all the time. Children younger than 2 years old should not wear a mask. 

Just like the regular flu, the coronavirus can easily be spread. Thus, it is important to take precautionary measures. It is recommended to get a flu shot, do frequent handwashing, establish social distancing, and avoid touching the eyes, mouth, and nose excessively. 

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