How effective are face masks for preventing coronavirus?

28th February 2020

The Wuhan coronavirus (now named COVID-19) is spreading quickly and as such, many countries and cities are experiencing a mass shortage of medical face masks. Here at UK Meds, we have FFP1, FFP2 and FFP3 face masks in stock that you can buy from as little as £9.99!

And while everyone rushes to buy themself a hygiene face mask, many are left questioning; do they actually work?

How effective are face masks for preventing coronavirus?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) have provided some guidance on how best to prevent the spread of coronavirus and one of their recommendations is to wear a face mask. This is because the coronavirus is spread through coughing and sneezing.

When you cough or sneeze, tiny droplets of saliva and mucus are released into the air and if a person has coronavirus, the virus could be contained within these droplets.

If these droplets are then inhaled by another person (or land on a surface that is touched and then inhaled by another person) then they too could catch the virus.

This is why wearing a face mask can contribute to protecting yourself from COVID-19. The masks create a shield from any infected droplets and protect your respiratory system to varying degrees. The level of protection provided will depend on the mask type that you have.


FFP1 face masks are the lowest grade kind but are therefore the cheapest to manufacture, which can make them very affordable for the consumer. They are recommended for use in times where the respiratory system needs protecting and filter out materials in concentrations up to 4x OEL or 4x APF.


FFP2 face masks are the European equivalent to the N95 respirator masks in the US. These are the kind of masks that meet the WHO guidance and offer effective protection.

FFP2 masks protect against materials in concentrations up to 12x OEL or 10x APF, which is a much higher concentration than FFP1.


FFP3 face masks offer a higher level of protection than FFP1 or FFP2 masks as they filter out the most material (in concentrations up to 50x OEL or 20x APF).

They can even be used as Asbestos masks and these are the kind that the current NHS guidelines stipulate for virus and bacterial infection control. This is because they offer the highest level of protection against tiny particles (such as viruses and bacteria).

Why is coronavirus spreading so quickly?

The Wuhan coronavirus is spread through coughing and sneezing, where infected droplets are passed from one person to another. But since we know that, surely we’d be able to prevent the spread?

Well, most viruses and diseases have something known as an incubation period. This is the time it takes from contracting the virus, to displaying symptoms. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has an incubation period of 2-14 days, which means that a person could have the virus but no symptoms, for 14 days.

During this time, that person could be passing on the virus without even realising they have it, hence why it’s spreading so quickly.

How else can I protect myself from coronavirus?

As well as wearing a face mask, it’s important to follow best hygiene practises in order to best prevent the disease from spreading. This means washing your hands regularly, coughing or sneezing into a tissue (and then throwing it in the bin) and self-isolating if you experience symptoms (or have recently returned from an affected area).

Coronavirus, as the name suggests, is a virus, which means that antibiotics are not a treatment option. Generally speaking, you have to let most viruses run their course while your body fights them. So it’s important to keep your immune system strong, which you can do with some immune support vitamins.