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Am J Infect Control. 2009 Jun;37(5):417-419. doi: 10.1016/j.ajic.2008.11.002. Epub 2009 Feb 12.

Use of surgical face masks to reduce the incidence of the common cold among health care workers in Japan: a randomized controlled trial.

Author information

1
University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine, Honolulu, HI; St. Luke's Life Science Institute Center for Clinical Epidemiology, Tokyo, Japan. Electronic address: jjacobs@hawaii.edu.
2
St. Luke's Life Science Institute Center for Clinical Epidemiology, Tokyo, Japan.
3
St. Luke's Life Science Institute Center for Clinical Epidemiology, Tokyo, Japan; St. Luke's International Hospital, Tokyo, Japan.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Health care workers outside surgical suites in Asia use surgical-type face masks commonly. Prevention of upper respiratory infection is one reason given, although evidence of effectiveness is lacking.

METHODS:

Health care workers in a tertiary care hospital in Japan were randomized into 2 groups: 1 that wore face masks and 1 that did not. They provided information about demographics, health habits, and quality of life. Participants recorded symptoms daily for 77 consecutive days, starting in January 2008. Presence of a cold was determined based on a previously validated measure of self-reported symptoms. The number of colds between groups was compared, as were risk factors for experiencing cold symptoms.

RESULTS:

Thirty-two health care workers completed the study, resulting in 2464 subject days. There were 2 colds during this time period, 1 in each group. Of the 8 symptoms recorded daily, subjects in the mask group were significantly more likely to experience headache during the study period (P < .05). Subjects living with children were more likely to have high cold severity scores over the course of the study.

CONCLUSION:

Face mask use in health care workers has not been demonstrated to provide benefit in terms of cold symptoms or getting colds. A larger study is needed to definitively establish noninferiority of no mask use.

PMID:
19216002
DOI:
10.1016/j.ajic.2008.11.002
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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