Is the Ja­panese prac­tice of wear­ing face masks ef­fec­tive in re­duc­ing the spread of colds?

Focus-Science and Technology - - Q&A - ED­WARD SEY­MOUR, HOVE

The wear­ing of face masks has be­come the norm in Ja­pan, even mak­ing it as far as the cou­ture cat­walks. But what many peo­ple in the West don’t re­alise is that they’re usu­ally worn by a per­son who has the cold or flu to pro­tect oth­ers, rather than to pro­tect the wearer. This is also true of the face masks worn by den­tists and sur­geons, which are de­signed to stop the wearer spread­ing their germs to the pa­tient.

How­ever, by pro­vid­ing a bar­rier, the masks are also ef­fec­tive at pro­tect­ing the wearer from air­borne viruses. They likely add fur­ther pro­tec­tion by keep­ing the mu­cous mem­branes in the nose and throat moist, help­ing our air­ways to ex­pel germs, and they’ve also been shown to pro­tect hay fever suf­fer­ers from pollen.

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