What you need to know about face masks

Before the coronavirus pandemic, masks were mainly a necessity for those who worked in the medical field and, most people were not acquainted with them. This is the reason why I decided to write this article as a guide for the use and care of masks.

When the pandemic started, masks were to be worn by those who had contracted the virus but as further research has taken place, everyone (sick or healthy) is expected to wear one. This is because some people may have contracted the virus but are still in the pre-symptomatic stage (before they have symptoms). In this stage, people will spread the virus unknowingly. They may actually be the most contagious as they think they are healthy. Masks, however, reduce the number of germs that the wearer releases and can protect other people from becoming sick.

Today face masks are one tool utilized to reduce the risk of transmission of disease as they help limit the spread of pathogens but, masks are only effective when worn properly.  If we wear a mask, we must therefore know how to use it and dispose of it properly.  In this article, I am mainly going to concentrate on the general use of cloth face masks (non-medical masks) as they are the ones most people will be using. The public is strongly discouraged from using surgical masks or N95 respirators as they are reserved for healthcare providers and first responders who need them the most.

Who should wear a face mask?

Everyone, with a few exceptions i.e. those who have breathing problems, those who are unconscious, and those who may be unable to remove the mask without help such as children under 2 years.

Wearing a mask takes some getting used to, find one that fits properly (covers all areas) but, fits comfortably as well. The goal is for the air to go through the mask, not around it in order for air to be filtered before you breathe it in.

When to wear the mask

Every time you go to public places, if you are coughing or sneezing or when you are caring for a person with Covid 19 symptoms.

How to wear the mask

1.Before wearing a mask make sure to wash your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.

2. Make sure there are no holes or tears on the mask.

3. Be sure the mask fits well and covers your mouth, nose, and chin.

4. Don’t touch the mask or cloth part of the mask once in position but if you do, remember to wash your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.

5. Do not remove the mask to talk to someone or do other things that would require touching the mask.

6. If the mask gets soiled or damp, replace it with a new one.

7. You must have at least two cloth masks per person so you will be able to wash one and have a clean one ready for use.

How to remove the mask

1. Disposable face masks should be used once and then thrown in the trash.

2. Remove and replace masks when they become moist.

3. Do not leave your used mask on open surfaces, dispose of them in the bin if they are single-use, or soak them in hot water with soap awaiting washing

4. Clean your hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer before and after touching the mask.

5. Remove a mask from behind and never from the front

6. When you take it off, undo the ties, and carefully fold the mask inside out. Hold it by the strings/elastic and place the mask in a container reserved for washing the cloth mask

7. For single-use masks, throw them into the bin after use and wash your hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer.

8. Keep the mask away from you and surfaces while removing it.

9. Wash cloth masks with warm soapy water and iron them when dry before using them again

What not to do when wearing a mask

To avoid the transfer of pathogens to your face (cross-contamination) or hands avoid the below;

Do not;

  • touch the mask once it’s secured on your face, as it might have pathogens on it
  • dangle the mask from one ear
  • hang the mask around your neck
  • crisscross the ties
  • reuse single-use masks
  • touch someone or a surface (a door handle, a box, or a can in the grocery store), and then touch the mask.
  • reach under your mask if you have an itch
  • touch your phone while you’re wearing a mask and gloves. If you have an urgent phone call to make, disinfect the phone.
  • Put your mask on common surfaces around the house and store it in a paper bag. Avoid plastic bags and containers that lock in moisture.

If you have to touch the face mask while you’re wearing it, wash your hands first. Be sure to also wash your hands afterward, or use hand sanitizer.

The effectiveness of masks

Masks are not a substitute for all other precautionary measures that people have been advised to take. You still need to;

  • Wash your hands frequently with an alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Exercise social distancing, the recommended being 6 feet.
  • Avoid touching your face, mouth, and eyes.
  • Stay home and avoid public places whenever possible.

In conclusion, wearing masks and gloves can create a false sense of security. This leads people to be less careful about what they touch and their hand washing or to pay attention to social distancing. Just remember, masks do not offer you 100% protection, use them with a combination of all the other hygiene measures. Above all, remember that only God can give you 100% protection.

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