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When face masks should be worn in doctor's office

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: When face masks should be worn in doctor's office
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If you go to the doctor's office, you may be asked to put on a face mask. Many offices are asking patients to wear masks to prevent the spread of the flu, but there isn't a uniform protocol for all doctor's offices. Our Allison Lazarz tells us what you can expect if you're heading to the waiting room.

LIVERPOOL, N.Y. -- At many doctor's offices, it's standard practice to ask patients who are coughing, sneezing or showing other flu-like symptoms to wear what's called a surgical mask. This type of mask is different from the professionally fitted masks that doctors wear and can help prevent the spread of diseases like influenza.

"When a patient presents to the office exhibiting flu symptoms, we always ask that they notify the receptionist first of all, they will be provided a facial mask and shown how to wear it properly as well as sanitize their hands," said Brynne Rudmann, a physician assistant at North Medical Center.

Both the CDC and state Health Department websites have recommendations for when patients should use face masks. A document available on the state department's website says during periods of increased respiratory infection in a community, a face masks may help reduce the spread of disease. And the CDC's website recommends masks be offered as part of respiratory hygiene to patients who are displaying flu-like symptoms when they are seeking health care services. But there's no across-the-board mandate on when face masks should be worn.

"Based on the CDC guidelines, North Medical has come up with its own protocol. As far as making sure to decrease the spread of the flu, it is recommended that patients do cover their mouths when coughing or sneezing. At the least as there's some variation," said Ruddmann.

Rudmann says if you see people wearing masks in the waiting room, it's not cause for alarm, it's simply a preventative measure to stop the spread of diseases.

Rudmann says asking patients with flu-like symptoms to wear a face mask is nothing new, but she says she thinks patients are more aware of the need to tell receptionists about their symptoms than they were just a few years ago.

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