Face Masks Vs Flu

Face Masks Versus the Flu - How Effective are they?

Updated: Tuesday 14 June 2022

The flu season is currently in full force. Common strategies consisting of vaccinations, maintaining a healthy diet, ensuring good hygiene and taking prescription medication are all widely acknowledged as useful strategies to avoid catching the flu. One strategy you may not be too familiar with or have considered is the use of the face mask.


How are face masks meant to protect you from getting the flu?

The influenza is an airborne virus, which is accelerated by sneezing, coughing or hand to mouth transmission. A face mask is worn in a bid to prevent the airborne virus from entering the body through the mouth and nose. Many face masks worn in the event of outbreaks are surgical masks, which are often three-ply with elastic straps to secure the fask mask to the face. In the event of an outbreak, face masks are often worn in highly populated areas or locations where there is a high level of human interaction and increased possibility of transmission.

How effective are face masks at preventing the flu?

The reported efficacy or usefulness of face masks for preventing the flu is inconsistent; many Virologists are sceptical about their effectiveness.

Face masks are acknowledged as a viable method for reducing the risk of flu transmission due to the use of a physical barrier covering the nose and mouth. It is also postulated that hand to mouth transmission may be significantly reduced, which is known as a common method for virus transmission [1]. The use of face masks to accompany other methods of flu prevention during outbreaks has been recognised, it is suggested that they encourage better hygiene practises and awareness of transmission risks [2].

The criticism of face masks resides in the fact that many publicly available face-masks do not have an adequate filtration system in that airborne viruses can still pass through the mask [3]. Furthermore, the fit is often not perfect or not fitted correctly by the wearer, leaving gaps where air can pass freely to the nose and mouth. Additionally, there is often a lack of statistical significance for face mask use as an effective flu prevention method, however, there is emphasis on the utility of combining face mask use with other hygiene practises such as hand sanitation to minimise the risk of transmission [4].

Why are face masks so difficult to get hold of?

The use of face masks has been recognised by China as an essential item and method to reduce the transmission rate of the coronavirus outbreak. Consequently, the exceedingly high demand has resulted in Chinese manufacturers running out of face masks, in addition to UK and European suppliers facing limited stock [5].

30 second face mask challenge

Due to the exceedingly high prevalence of the flu and the current coronavirus outbreak threatening a pandemic, we are spreading the word about flu prevention strategies.

What’s the challenge?

Can you make a face mask and put it on in 30 seconds?

Challenge your friends to find out who can make a face mask the fastest! Remember to share the challenge and get a picture together wearing your face masks.

Use hashtag #30secondfacemaskchallenge and share the challenge with your friends - lets go viral!

What you need to make a face mask:

  1. One piece of kitchen roll
  2. Two small/medium sized elastic bands
  3. A stapler
  4. 30 seconds

How to make the face mask:

Take a sheet of kitchen roll, fold it into a consentina, take an elastic band and place it one side, fold over the kitchen paper and staple, do the same with the other side.

Please note we do not know the efficacy of these single-ply face masks and as a result we do not recommend them as a preventable measure from the spread of an airborne virus.


Toby Watson

Written by: Toby Watson

Pharmica Medical Writer

Toby (BSc) is an experienced medical writer, producing educational articles on many areas of health including sexual health, fitness, nutrition and mental health.

He particularly enjoys debunking misconceptions around heath conditions and their treatments, researching each topic in detail and writing easily-accessible content.

Find out more about how we ensure the accuracy of our content with our content guidelines.

The Coronavirus, the Flu and You
The Coronavirus, the Flu and You