From Our 2009 Archives
Can a Mask Prevent Swine Flu?
While a mask could theoretically help prevent swine flu, it's a bit much for most people and really not necessary at this point.
Sure, if someone is coughing or sneezing in your face, a mask might help. Also, if you know that you're going to be around someone with swine flu, such as a loved one, a mask might be warranted. But otherwise, that's not the most effective strategy for preventing swine flu because you don't catch most respiratory viruses from people coughing in your face.
Here's what generally happens. Someone with a virus sneezes or coughs in their hand. Then, they touch something like an elevator button or a doorknob. You come along a few minutes later and touch that same button or knob. Then, without thinking about it, you touch your face – your mouth, nose, or eyes – and the virus takes hold of you.
As mundane as it sounds, the most effective way to prevent getting respiratory viruses like swine flu is washing your hands. But most of us don't do it often enough and don't do it the right way.
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