*Average Read Time: 5 minutes
A month ago, you may have read our blog post, The History of The Face Mask, which was a high-level review of the evolution of the face mask throughout human history. Now, as we’ve past the one-year mark of the first government required mask mandate and we continue to battle the covid-19 virus as both a country and a planet, I think it’s time we consider what the future might look like for the face mask.
In Asian countries, masks have always been a staple accessory of modern society. It's common in those nations to wear masks to control respiratory droplets especially during cold, flu and hay fever seasons. In Japan, face masks are nearly universal in public areas, despite not being mandated. Based on statistics regarding the 2020 flu season (or lack thereof), perhaps there’s something to the mask wearing habits observed in countries like Japan.
During the past year we’ve seen the typical outbreak of seasonal influenza nearly disappear, an obvious unforeseen benefit of social distancing and mask wearing practices set in place as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In past years the US has seen as many as 61,000 people die from the flu in one flu “season” which typically lasts only 5 months from November through March. One might wonder why we don’t wear masks during flu season every year. In looking at the hard numbers, some might even begin to question…should we?
Personally, when I compare my pre-pandemic annual rate/occurrence of illness to that of the past year, I’ve experienced a dramatic decrease. For example, prior to the pandemic I traveled at a pace and frequency most would consider, excessive. After every international trip, spending 16 hours on a plane in either direction, as well as potentially 10-12 hours on a plane bouncing around Asian countries in between my exit and re-entry to the US, I would get sick. No matter what I did, within one to two weeks after my return, I was sick.
Typically, with colds or sinus infections, ear infections, strep throat or a combination of all of the above. It would take me roughly three weeks to recover once medicated. Obviously, my international travel has been mostly non-existent since the onset of the pandemic. However, my domestic travel has increased to make up for it. Unlike most people, I’ve been on an airplane 2-4x per month since the onset of the pandemic. At the rate at which I’ve traveled, I would have expected to fall ill at least once in the past year, but I haven’t.
Why is that? I wear my MFM mask with filter the entire time I’m traveling. The only time I remove my mask when traveling, is when I find an empty corner in the airport to quickly stuff my face with whatever sustenance I need to carry on with my day. While flying when I need to take a drink, I lift up THE BOTTOM of my mask, leaving my nose completely covered, and mouth still mostly covered, to drink my water. I then promptly re-secure the bottom of my mask around my chin. This reduces my exposure to others to nearly zero.
As you may or may not know, I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts that I suffer from the autoimmune disease, lupus. As a result, my inflammatory response to seasonal allergies has historically been extreme. This response has often led to infection. Most notably, sinus infections, but also double ear infections as well. In the past year, I’ve worn my mask with filter while walking/running outside in very crowded public parks around the cities I’ve visited, out of an abundance of caution. While I may not have needed the protection from covid-19 while outside, I certainly needed the protection from seasonal allergens and air pollutants especially around Denver where wildfire season was particularly bad last year.
There is absolutely no doubt in my mind, the protection MFM masks and filters have provided me while traveling, and while spending time outdoors, has prevented me from getting sick this past year. This is enough evidence for me personally to say, when I eventually return to international travel at the pace at which I was traveling pre-pandemic, I will 1000% be wearing a mask and filter to and from wherever it is that I’m going.
While the science behind the effectiveness of mask wearing is indisputable to me at this point, provided of course, you’re wearing a proper mask and not some of the cheap garbage masks sold by our competitors, I can understand why people gripe about mask wearing. However, when you look at the risk vs. reward, the rewards far outweigh the risk you take going unmasked. The last time I had the flu was 2015 and I kid you not when I say, it nearly killed me.
For over a decade working in very large corporate offices, where we were packed like sardines in neat, tight rows, one after the next, it was common to have the flu and other colds run rampant from October through March. In Asia it’s common knowledge that if you awake feeling sick but well enough to work, it is expected that you wear a mask to protect your co-workers. This applies to any time of the year. I’ve witnessed this behavior firsthand on nearly every single trip I’ve taken to visit factory partners.
Sadly, it's no secret that American's are more often than not, completely selfish. No one seems to care how their behavior can affect others. I'm sure none of you reading this have ever stopped to think how dangerous your germs could be to people with pre-existing conditions or autoimmune diseases like lupus. For people like me, the severe flare-up I could experience as a result of exposure to the flu or cold my co-worker brings with them to work, is potentially more dangerous than if I caught the actual cold or flu itself.
There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that if masks were worn here in the US during flu/cold season, the rate and frequency at which we would fall ill would decrease dramatically and potentially be almost entirely eliminated. It remains to be seen how America will handle masking once it’s no longer legally required. I would like to believe that people would gtf over themselves enough to realize the benefits. Not just the personal benefits, but the positive effect this could have on our society and healthcare system on an annual basis.
Personally, I never want to get the flu ever again. If wearing a mask could prevent that from happening, I’m wearing a damn mask (with a filter). The lack of logic exhibited by many American’s never ceases to amaze and astound me. While we seemingly refuse to learn from past experience (i.e see Spanish Flu) I’m hopeful enough of us will embrace the logic behind mask wearing far beyond the end of the pandemic and as a result, that flu season becomes less dangerous and far less deadly than years passed. Again…life is simply just too fragile not to.
Stay safe, stay stylish, stay humble.
Founder & CEO, Love Saves Apparel PBC