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People’s Pharmacy: Do face masks protect people from infections?

UPDATED: Wed., May 13, 2020

Luis Angel Cruzata, wearing a protective face mask amid the coronavirus pandemic, looks out from the entrance to his home in Havana, Cuba, on Wednesday. (Ismael Francisco / AP)
Luis Angel Cruzata, wearing a protective face mask amid the coronavirus pandemic, looks out from the entrance to his home in Havana, Cuba, on Wednesday. (Ismael Francisco / AP)
By Joe Graedon, M.S. , , Teresa Graedon and Ph.D. King Features Syndicate

Q. I was skeptical of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s initial recommendation not to wear masks. They said even if you did wear one, it would not protect you but might protect those around you if you were shedding the virus.

Those statements never made sense to me. If masks don’t protect the wearer from infection, why do medical personnel wear them in the presence of those who are ill?

We visited St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital a few years ago. The little children who had been stricken with cancer but were well enough to play were riding tricycles and running up and down the halls. All of them were wearing masks.

I’m pretty sure it wasn’t so the rest of us would be safe from the kids’ infections. It was so the children, whose immune systems were compromised because of their chemo treatments, would be protected from illnesses that visitors might bring into the facility.

To me, that is proof that masks work to protect the wearer as well as those around him/her. Mask-wearing should be mandatory until the COVID-19 epidemic has run its course.

A. We certainly agree that masks make sense when there is a respiratory infection raging. In countries such as Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and China, people have long worn face masks during flu season in self-interest and as a civic duty. There, wearing a mask tells people you behave responsibly.

Of course, hand-washing and maintaining physical distance also are important. Until we have effective drug treatments or vaccines against COVID-19, we should use these tools to stay as safe as possible.

Q. After diagnosing my arthritis, my doctor prescribed meloxicam. During the three years I took it, my blood pressure went from 120/80 to 190/144. Unfortunately, he wasn’t monitoring it.

When I found I had such high blood pressure, I got off the meloxicam and was put on lisinopril. Six months later, my BP is stable at 130/86. I do want it lower, so the fight is still on. Please monitor your blood pressure while you are on meloxicam.

A. Great advice to anyone taking a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, or NSAID. That includes OTC pain relievers like ibuprofen and naproxen as well as prescription arthritis drugs like celecoxib, diclofenac or meloxicam.

Email Joe and Teresa Graedon via their website

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