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Does a face mask prevent the flu and COVID-10? What MDs say



  • Face masks can help protect against flu in addition to the novel coronavirus.
  • The CDC does not officially recommend face masks for flu prevention, but does refer to other “everyday preventive measures”.
  • Doctors reiterate that masks can prevent breath droplets from spreading, even with flu and COVID-19.

    Sure, people mostly wear face masks these days to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. But now experts say that wearing your mask in public could have an added benefit: it could reduce your chances of catching the flu.

    Like COVID-1

    9, the flu is a virus that mainly spreads through infected respiratory droplets. “Wearing a mask is also likely to reduce the transmission of the flu,” says Dr. Richard Watkins, Infectious Disease Physician in Akron, Ohio and Professor of Internal Medicine at Northeast Ohio Medical University.

    Rajeev Fernando, MD, an infectious disease expert in Southampton, NY, expects the 2020-21 flu season to actually be milder than usual due to methods of coronavirus prevention, including widespread wearing of masks. “It’s the same concept as preventing the spread of COVID-19,” he says. “Masks can help prevent breath droplets from spreading.”

    That being said, you should still plan for a flu shot this year and use other flu prevention methods. Here’s what you need to know to protect yourself from the flu this year with face masks and other measures.

    A mask should only be part of your flu prevention plan this year.

    FWIW: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) do not currently include a face mask in their main recommendations for preventing the flu from spreading. Instead, the CDC recommends avoiding close contact with sick people, covering up coughs and sneezes, washing hands well with soap and water, avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth, and cleaning and disinfecting objects that may be contaminated with the water Viruses that cause the flu.

    However, the CDC is advising people of “everyday preventive measures” to stop the spread of COVID-19 as part of their tips on preventing the flu from spreading. And one of those measures is the advice to wear a face mask when going out.

    Medical staff wear surgical masks when treating flu patients, Fernando says, and a cloth mask can likely provide at least some level of protection. And when someone with the flu wears a mask and the people around them also wear a mask, the likelihood of the infected person making others sick drops dramatically, says Fernando.

    Yes, you still need to get your flu shot.

    The CDC specifically says it is “more important than ever” to get the flu vaccine this season and cites these as top reasons for your shot:

    • It can reduce your risk of catching the flu and being hospitalized or dying from the flu if you catch it.
    • Getting a flu vaccine can save resources on health care for people with COVID-19.

      “At this point, I would recommend so many preventive measures that we know will work,” says Fernando. “There’s really no reason not to get a flu shot. We’re going to have a weaker flu season if everyone does. “

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      And if you continue to practice known methods of preventing the spread of COVID-19, such as: For example, wearing your mask, avoiding the crowds, social distancing and regular hand washing, chances are you’ll catch the flu – and COVID-19 – should go down, says Watkins.

      Sounds like a win-win situation.

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