These are the signs and symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease - and if you can catch it from face masks

Friday, 7th August 2020, 8:53 am
Updated Friday, 7th August 2020, 8:54 am
Legionnaires' disease is a lung infection that you can catch by inhaling droplets of water (Photo: Shutterstock)

Widely shared social media posts have claimed that face masks can give you Legionnaires’ disease, report Reuters.

But is this true and what are the signs and symptoms of the disease?

Here’s what you need to know.

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What is Legionnaires’ disease?

Legionnaires' disease is a lung infection that you can catch by inhaling droplets of water from things such as air conditioning or hot tubs, explains the NHS.

The disease is uncommon, but can be very serious if caught.

Can you catch Legionnaires’ disease from face masks?

Although posts claiming that wearing a face mask can give you the disease have been shared on social media, this is not true., a non-profit organisation that provides information about the disease, explains, “You cannot contract Legionnaires’ disease from wearing face masks.”

How can you get Legionnaires' disease?

The NHS notes that you can catch Legionnaires' disease if you breathe in tiny droplets of water which contain bacteria that cause the infection.

“It's usually caught in places like hotels, hospitals or offices where the bacteria have got into the water supply. It's very rare to catch it at home,” explains the NHS.

You can catch Legionnaires’ disease from things like:

  • air conditioning systems
  • spa pools and hot tubs
  • showers, taps and toilets

You cannot usually get it from:

  • drinking water containing the bacteria
  • other people with the infection
  • places like ponds, lakes and rivers

What are the symptoms and when should I see a doctor?

The NHS explains that you should get advice from 111 if you have a bad cough and:

  • it does not go away
  • you cannot breathe properly
  • you have severe chest pain
  • you have a high temperature or feel hot and shivery
  • you feel like you have severe flu

These could be symptoms of Legionnaires' disease, but 111 will tell you what to do. They can arrange a phone call from a nurse or doctor if you need one.

What is the treatment for Legionnaires’ Disease?

You may need to go into hospital if you're diagnosed with Legionnaires' disease, explains the NHS.

Treatment in hospital may include:

  • antibiotics directly into a vein
  • oxygen through a face mask or tubes in your nose
  • a machine to help you breathe

When you start to get better you might be able to take antibiotic tablets at home, which usually last from one to three weeks.

“Most people make a full recovery, but it might take a few weeks to feel back to normal,” notes the NHS.