Face masks are showing up more often as some states are seeing an up-tick in coronavirus cases. In states where masks are mandatory, people do not have much choice about wearing them in public. In other states, masks are voluntary.
One thing that remains consistent no matter where you go is this: there are right and wrong ways to utilize face masks. Thus, mask wearers should not be haphazard about what they do. Face masks are only effective if they are designed properly and used according to certain procedures.
If you are going to wear a mask, here are some important things you need to know, compliments of the World Health Organization (WHO):
Choose a Fabric Mask
A fabric mask with three protective layers is best, according to Salt Lake City-based Alsco. The best three-layer masks feature a barrier layer in the middle. That barrier layer is designed to absorb droplets so as to trap germs that would otherwise pass through.
Wash Your Hands Before and After
It is important to wash your hands before putting your mask on and then again after taking it off. Why? Because contaminated hands can contaminate your mask when you put it on. If your mask is contaminated when you take it off, you can transfer those contaminants to your hands.
Handle Your Mask Properly
Face masks attach to the face with ear loops or string ties. These loops and ties offer an extra function: they should be what you use to handle your mask. Only pick your mask up by the loops or straps. Take it off the same way. Do not handle the actual mask portion or you risk contaminating it.
As you might guess, this means that you should not remove your mask – even temporarily – by grabbing the fabric and pulling down. So many people do this without realizing that they are mitigating the benefits of wearing a mask by doing so.
Make Sure Your Mask Fits
Alsco says a good face mask fits snugly and comfortably. It should not be so loose as to allow your breath to easily escape. It also shouldn’t be so tight that it causes discomfort. Also note that a good mask is large enough to cover the nose, mouth, and chin.
Where Your Mask Properly
Hand-in-hand with mask fit is how you wear your mask. For it to be effective, it must cover the nose. There is no point in using a mask if you only cover your mouth. Leaving the nose uncovered allows you to inhale and exhale contaminated air that ends up not being filtered by the mask.
Wash Your Mask Daily
The WHO says that cloth face masks should be laundered daily. The reasoning behind this is simple: any germs trapped in your mask will only grow and multiply if left alone. Wearing the same mask for several days without laundering can turn it into a cornucopia of germs.
Inspect Your Mask Daily
Finally, you should inspect your mask daily. Look for any damage that could render it ineffective. If you do find a rip, tear, or hole, it is time to set it aside and get a new one. Damaged masks do not help you or others.
You may or may not be required to wear a face mask. If you are going to wear one, make sure you know how to do it right. Using a face mask improperly not only fails to protect you and others, it can also give you a false sense of confidence that could ultimately do more harm than good.