Sunday, 01 Oct 2023

Face masks are still a good idea at the doctor's office, study says

Face masks are still a good idea at the doctor's office, study says

Signs urging everyone to mask up have largely disappeared from places like grocery stores and schools in the third year of the Covid-19 pandemic. But they remain in many medical offices, and a study published Monday says they might still be a good idea.

Even after the expiration of the US public health emergency declaration and with many Americans moving away from pandemic precautions, masks continue to offer some protection, reducing your risk of catching Covid-19 in a community setting like in a close doctor and patient interaction, according to the study, which reviewed the latest science on the protective quality of masks.

The study, published in the journal the Annals of Internal Medicine, also found that there wasn't a significant difference in protection between surgical masks and N95 respirators in a health care setting. N95s may be slightly more beneficial, but that wasn't completely clear from the research.

The researchers reviewed three randomized trials and 21 observational studies from around the world to understand what the evidence says about the effectiveness of N95, surgical and cloth masks to reduce transmission of Covid-19.

Some of the research they used had limitations. Evidence on surgical vs. cloth masks, for instance, or more- vs. less-consistent mask use was "insufficient," the researchers wrote.

In an editorial published alongside the new study, Drs. Tara Palmore of George Washington University School of Medicine and David Henderson of the National Institutes of Health note that mask use became a politicized topic during the pandemic. Because gold standard evidence about their protectiveness is not available, they say, masks for patients and health care personnel should be considered a good safety measure.

Lab studies show that surgical masks and respirators are good at limiting the spread of aerosols and droplets from people who are sick with the flu, coronaviruses and other respiratory viruses. Although not 100% effective, they substantially reduce the quantities of the virus that get expelled when someone is talking or coughing.

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