History Lessons: Should We Wear Protective Masks? – Topics in development

Does wearing protective masks really reduce the risk of becoming infected with COVID-19? This issue continues to be the subject of heated debate.

The World Health Organization has repeatedly noted that these masks can save many lives and are one of our strongest weapons in the fight against the deadly disease.

However, some people do not agree to wear masks and even believe that they are more harmful to their health.

What do the facts show?

All the data available to scientists show the same thing – the masks limit the spread of COVID-19.

However, it is important to distinguish between different types of protective equipment. One of the most commonly used are the so-called medical masks (also called surgical), which are disposable. Their main function is to protect us from contact with small droplets that contain microbes, as well as from larger harmful particles that we can inhale. Doctors advise them to wear tightly to the face and to cover the nose and mouth tightly. It is important to note that they do not increase the amount of carbon dioxide we inhale.

Another type of mask that experts recommend is KN95. They provide significantly greater protection, as they filter both larger and smaller particles contained in the air (according to scientists, they capture about 95% of these particles).

However, the authorities in a number of countries warn people to be careful when buying such masks, as many of their imitations are sold, which are far from being of high quality and do not meet the same standards.

The rapid spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 has led a number of experts to recommend the use of N95 masks. They provide a high degree of protection, are categorized as medical and in hospital conditions are disposable – doctors are obliged to change them, because through them they can transmit an infection from one patient to another.

Similar to the N95 are the masks with European certification FFP2, which have a slightly lower filtration (the difference between the two types is insignificant). The scientists added that the longer we wear the N95 mask, the more bacteria will be caught in it. A good way to disinfect it is to leave it in the sun for a few hours.

One of the most controversial issues is the extent to which canvas masks protect against COVID-19.

Scientists note that the best protection is provided by those who have several layers. They catch the droplets that we excrete while talking, coughing or sneezing, as well as those that are in danger of inhalation.

Cloth masks, like surgical ones, do not increase the amount of carbon dioxide we take in.

And what do we know about the history of masks?

In 1897, the famous German bacteriologist Karl Fluge discovered that the microorganisms in the droplets expelled from the respiratory tract were a means of transmitting disease. In the same year, Polish surgeon Johan Mikulich-Radetski advised doctors to put gauze over their noses and mouths during operations. Since then, scientists have continued to create increasingly reliable protective masks.

Here are some more interesting facts about their story:

The practice of wearing such masks is much older than you might think.

According to historians, the earliest evidence is approximately 2,000 years old. The Roman philosopher Pliny the Elder used a filter mask made from an animal’s bladder while crushing cinnabar (mercuric sulfide), a toxic mineral used in the fine arts.

Protective masks were also worn in China as early as the 13th century, during the Yuen dynasty.

Evidence of this can be found in the works of the famous traveler Marco Polo. He says that the emperor’s subordinates covered their mouths and noses so as not to contaminate the food they served him.

The outbreak of the largest plague epidemic in the history of Europe in the fourteenth century – the so-called Black Death, led many people to start using protective masks made from various products.

Another epidemic in different parts of the Old Continent in the 17th century led to the invention of the “plague masks” by the French doctor Charles de Lorme.

They covered the whole face and had long beaks in which aromatic herbs and essential oils were often placed.

The genius inventor, architect and artist Leonardo da Vinci placed a towel soaked in water on his mouth to protect himself from the toxic chemicals from the paints and plaster he worked with.

To this day, doctors advise people to use this method in case of fire to protect their lungs from dangerous smoke.

The discovery that airborne bacteria existed by Louis Pasteur in 1861 made people realize how easily they could be infected with certain dangerous diseases.

As a result, doctors began to encourage the wearing of cotton masks. Gradually, they became a fashion accessory. Many women wore lace veils with the idea of ​​protecting themselves from dangerous particles.

An epidemic of plague broke out in northern China in the early 20th century.

To stop the rapid spread of the disease, local doctors began to wear special masks made of gauze and cotton. They had ties that attached them to their ears. It is believed that this is the prototype of the masks, which are still used in medicine.

In 1905, the famous American physician Alice Hamilton published the results of a study of the amount of bacteria that patients with scarlet fever expel while coughing.

She also examined bacteria released by healthy hospital staff while talking or sneezing. Her conclusion was that protective masks should always be worn during operations. Hamilton’s recommendations are still followed today.

During the global Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, the wearing of protective masks became one of the main means of reducing the dangerous disease.

In some American cities, the measure even became mandatory, leading to protests. The data available to scientists show that the number of victims of the Spanish flu there was lower than in settlements where the wearing of masks was not mandatory.

Look more:

The painful lessons we have learned from pandemics in the past

Will alcohol help us fight COVID-19?

How to make sure that vaccines do not have long-term side effects

Myth vs. Reality: Is there graphene oxide in COVID-19 vaccines?

4 of the most shocking medical practices in history

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