In our culture, it is not common and looks downright weird to us when we see someone other than a surgeon wearing a surgical mask. However, in many parts of Asia, you will often see people wearing surgical masks when sick. This is done as a way of preventing the spread of their yucky germs.
In reality, if you think about it, this is a rather practical and extremely courteous thing to do. As we know, most of the germs are spread through our mouths, breathing, saliva, sneezing, touching our face and then items, etc. So covering your mouth and nose should in theory work really well in keeping your germs with you.
I traveled to Hong Kong and Japan, and during my time there, I saw this several times. At the time, I thought it was odd, and I wondered if those people either had their immune system highly compromised, or they were really deadly and contagious. I soon discovered that this practice was just about preventing the spread of the common cold and or flu like illness. I also realize that in Asia, it is the norm!
Today I saw two people wearing masks, both were Asian women, and the practice is in line with the practices in Asia. It leads me to think that these folks either grew up there, or recently came over here, and still carry this habit. I do wonder what folks like the women I saw today would think about the rest of us who do not wear surgical masks when sick. Personally, if I’m in really bad shape, I’ll just take the day off from work and stay home to recover.
I don’t think it’s likely that you’ll catch me wearing a surgical mask anytime soon, no matter how practical it may be. I already sleep with a damn cpap mask, I don’t want to spend my waking hours behind a mask too! Who knows, perhaps in the future things will be different, but for now, it’s not likely that U.S. raised Americans will start implementing this practice.