Why you should consider wearing a mask during the holiday season

The holidays always promise to be an exciting time to connect with family, exchange gifts, and visit friends we haven’t seen in a while. This often involves gathering in large groups, going to malls with hundreds of other people, and traveling long distances. Given the excitement of such activities, it might be wise to consider wearing a mask this holiday season – and here’s why!

Despite public fatigue over the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s far from over! In fact, infections from Covid-19, influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are on the rise in the US and are only expected to worsen in the coming weeks. Hospitals, urgent care clinics and primary care centers continue to be overwhelmed by the sheer number of patients who become infected, reminiscent of what we saw at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. Wearing a mask will not only reduce the chances of becoming infected, but it will also keep people out of the hospital and keep ICU beds open for those who are seriously ill.

Wearing a mask is also an extremely economical way to stay healthy. Think about it, most people can get a mask for free when they walk into a hospital or pharmacy. At most, the purchase of a mask can be made with pocket change. We often spend hundreds of dollars on medicine for our loved ones when we get sick, yet an action as simple as putting a mask on our face will be very light on our wallet and can keep us out of the hospital this holiday season. You can search here to find where you can find free masks in your zip code.

A mask actively protects you from infection from various pathogens present in the environment, according to a study in the JAMA Network. In the case of Covid-19, masks form a protective barrier to respiratory droplets that could land in someone’s nose or mouth. In addition, they prevent infected patients from exposing others to virus-containing droplets in the air. So why is there such reluctance to wear masks in our communities? We all put shoes on our feet to protect us from the dirt outside, we all wear jackets and gloves to protect us from the cold outside. However, when it comes to wearing a mask, we think twice or thrice. Don’t masks protect us from something that could potentially kill us or make us seriously ill? Some critics also feel that we are oppressing our children when we put masks on them. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Masks should be seen as empowering our children to protect themselves from disease, and that’s exactly what the evidence shows.

Finally, masks allow us to protect those who cannot protect themselves. Immunocompromised patients are those who cannot effectively fight off an infection when exposed to an infection. Examples of patients who are immunocompromised include those undergoing steroid or chemotherapy treatment, those who have undergone organ transplants, and even patients with chronic diseases such as diabetes. An immunocompetent Covid-positive patient not wearing a mask who is asymptomatic can transmit an infection to an immunocompromised patient, who may then develop symptoms because they cannot fight the infection as effectively as an immunocompetent patient. Thus, wearing a mask can be the difference in transmission of infection to those who may not be able to protect themselves by physical means.

The holidays usually bring out the best in people through selfless care, love and compassion. Maybe it’s time to bring out your best self by wearing a mask during your festivities.

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