Wearing masks for health reasons has become a global norm. However, the practice of wearing masks for health dates back centuries. Let us take a journey through time, from historical moments to more recent events when masks were donned for the sake of public health.
The Plague Doctors (17th Century)
In the 17th century, Europe faced several devastating outbreaks of the bubonic plague. Physicians donned distinctive beak-like masks filled with herbs and spices to protect themselves from the disease. Though these masks were nowhere near modern masks in terms of their effectiveness, they marked an early attempt at personal protective equipment.
Spanish Flu (1918)
The Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 somewhat previewed what would come to be in the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic. During this point in time, this pandemic saw the widespread use of cloth masks to help slow the transmission of the virus. These masks, similar to today’s cloth face coverings, were often handmade and worn in public spaces.
London’s Great Smog (1952)
In December 1952, London experienced a deadly smog event that led to the deaths of thousands due to respiratory issues. This event prompted the use of simple masks and handkerchiefs to filter the air, similar to masks used in smog-choked cities today.
SARS Outbreak (2002-2003)
The Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in the early 2000s led to the increased mask usage, particularly in Asian countries. It marked a significant shift in the perception of mask-wearing for health, with people wearing masks to protect themselves and others.
Metro Manila Smog (Present Day)
Over the past month, Metro Manila became covered with smog so bad that schools had to cancel classes. This compelled people to start wearing masks again, as the air became almost unbreathable for those walking outdoors in the metropolis.
New York City Smog (Present Day)
Additionally, cities like New York City have also faced air quality issues with smog that come with occasional advisories to encourage residents to wear masks when outdoors. These masks serve as a necessity for preserving respiratory health in these urban environments.