Ever since the world got hit with the coronavirus outbreak, several precautionary measures have been put in place: From ban on international travel to self-isolation to following strict personal hygiene, along with an array of other such rules. One such commonly advised and suggested precautionary measure is wearing of masks and use of hand sanitisers. And, the advise has been taken quite seriously to the point that India is suddenly facing a shortage of both. But, the use of masks and hand sanitisers have also led to a vital question, mostly because of certain reports doing the rounds on the internet: Are they actually useful?
In a bid to get a deeper understanding, we spoke to a few city doctors about the same. While talking about masks, Dr Behram Pardiwala, Internal Medicine Expert Wockhardt Hospital, Mumbai Central, said, "General public wearing masks is not necessary. People who are infected or those who are taking care of Covid-19 patients should wear masks. I see people wearing all sorts of masks outside which makes now sense. If you really want to avoid coronavirus one should wear N-95 or N-99 masks. But these masks can only be bought with doctors prescription. Three ply surgical mask are usefull, but people wearing cloth masks or covering their faces with handkerchief is useless. In order to save yourself from the virus one needs three ply cloth mask."
Speaking of masks and hand sanitisers as being the first in line of defence, Dr Rinky Kapoor, Dermatologist & Dermato-Surgeon, The Esthetic Clinics further said, “WHO has issued clear guidelines about the use of masks for normal population and medical professionals. While in your day to day routine you need to wear masks if you are going in crowded places or are suffering from cold and cough; medical professionals should wear special masks at all times. Masks will protect you from infection and if you already have an infection it will prevent it from spreading on."
While many are confused with the different kinds of masks available in the market, Dr Kapoor said, "When buying a mask it is important to check the material. Medical professionals should only use N95 grade respirator masks. They are made of layers of fibres which trap the thick and thin air droplets ionincally. N95 grade masks filter out at least 95% particles in the air. Normal surgical masks are made of non woven fabrics that are spun from metal fibres like a cotton candy. Masks are of various thickness and you should chose one with minimum of level three protection for regular use. Do not buy cloth or local plastic made masks."
While hand sanitisers have been in the market for a while, people have suddenly developed a newfound love for these. While hand sanitiser may be flying off the shelves like crazy, it’s soap that’s going actually going help us beat coronavirus.
“I don't know why people are running after hand sanitisers. If one washes hands properly with soap and water there is no need of sanitisers. Sanitisers can be used when water is not available or while travelling. But soap and water are the best disinfectant,” Dr Behram Pardiwala said. Talking about which santiser to use, Dr Pariwala said, "Any sanitiser which has over 70% alochol is a good, anything below that should be avoided."
“While we are not disputing the effectiveness of hand sanitizers as emergency on the go way to clean your hand, regular use can actually do more damage than good," Dr Rinky Kapoor said.
So what are these harmful effects of overuse of hand sanitisers? “It strips the skin of its natural barrier. Hand sanitizers contain over 60% of alcohol, which breaks down the essential proteins and lipids on the skin, thus weakening its natural ability to fight outside infections. The alcohol present in the sanitisers makes skin dry and susceptible to cracks and contact dermatitis. Too much use of hand sanitizers can make your skin sensitive to UV light and cause sunburns. It can also speeds up the ageing process: Dryness, sensitivity to sunlight, lack of natural hydration can lead to increased appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, cracks, and flakiness on hand hands,” concludes Dr Rinky Kapoor.