- Flu Facts
Do Surgical Masks Prevent Flu?
Wearing a mask is something we learned during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it can help with other viruses too. Today we’re looking at both sides of the equation for mask wearing.
The first question most of us wonder about is: Will a mask prevent you from contracting the flu?
The short answer is yes although the level of prevention depends on factors like the material and design of the mask and the situations in which you’re wearing the mask. The best masks for flu prevention are: approved N95 Masks, Surgical Masks worn with a mask fitter or brace, and Surgical Masks worn with a secondary cloth mask over them.
At the time of writing this article no one is required to wear a mask for flu prevention, but if you’re interested in reducing your risk of infection, masks help.
Our second question is: Will a mask prevent you from spreading the flu if you’re currently ill?
The answer here is also yes. In fact, almost any mask will reduce the spread of influenza droplets so if you know you’re sick, it’s a good idea to keep others safer by wearing a mask. The top three mask recommendations from above apply here too but even a surgical mask alone will reduce the chances of you spreading illness.
One disease prevention study split people into two groups: one that wore surgical masks and one that didn’t. They found that when people wore surgical masks, there was a 25-fold decrease in the number of large virus particles that came out when they exhaled. When someone who has the flu wears a mask, the infected individual is less likely to pass their illness onto others.
To summarize, we know mask wearing is contentious for some people, but to simply answer the question, ‘Does mask wearing prevent the spread of flu?’ the answer is yes. How much you prevent the spread of flu depends on the mask you’re wearing, when you wear it and your proximity to other people.