Without going into the controversy of mask on or mask off, it is safe to say that wearing a mask during this pandemic (which is the law by the way) will help protect you against the virus as well as break the chain of infection.
But only if you are wearing it properly!
Doesn’t matter if you are wearing a cloth face mask or a disposable one, using it correctly will give you the protection you need. For starters, it is supposed to cover your entire bottom half of the face, and not just part of your nose or your chin. Take this friendly advice from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo: Wear a mask, not a chin guard.
Then there’s the whole cleanliness thing. It’s easy to take mask hygiene for granted; after all, it’s all new to us. But you don’t want to end up like the Texas doctor who died of COVID because she wore the same mask for weeks.
Here are more things you need to take note of when it comes to mask hygiene.
Clean or dispose
According to this report by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), only one in eight people are washing reusable face coverings correctly and more than half of those using disposable masks are using them multiple times. Guilty? Unfortunately, being careless about this can put you at a higher risk of contracting COVID or other germs – imagine what’s on your mask as a result of people coughing or sneezing near you, your hands touching your mask after touching a dirty surface (if you don’t wash or sanitise your hands either!). Which makes wearing a mask – if it is dirty – useless against protecting you.
The gold standard? Replace your disposable mask every day. You need your mask to fit to your face and by reusing it, the paper material breaks down, the elastic becomes loose, and so your mask becomes less effective. Using the reusable type? Have a spare or two because you need to soak it in detergent and hot water for an hour and then wash at the end of the day.
Don’t leave it lying around
Take mask off, put it on again – that’s like a daily routine nowadays. But don’t leave it lying around, especially if it is a shared surface like a meeting table or at the restaurant. For one, it makes people around you uncomfortable to have a used mask near them and second, you don’t know what’s on that surface! Get yourself a plastic bag or container and put your mask inside whenever you need to take it off. Don’t forget to wash or discard the container at the end of the day (because we can’t say it enough, stuff on your mask will transfer to whatever surface it touches).
Dirty hands off
There’s no point wearing a mask religiously if you don’t wash or sanitise your hands frequently. Dirty hands taking the mask on and off equals to dirty masks. And we all know what that means in term of protection. Do yourself a favour – always wash your hands or use hand sanitiser before putting on your mask. Here’s a tip: When removing your mask, touch only the attached strings or elastic bands to prevent touching the area that is supposed to protect you.
Breaking out in acne around the area where your mask is? This is a clear indication of dirty face mask side effect. Breathing out warm, moist air into your face mask and saliva accumulation filled with bacteria will cause acne to develop, especially if you don’t change your mask regularly. If anything, the thought of having pimples again like when you were a teenager should encourage you to be more conscious of your mask hygiene.
Finally – the biggest no when it comes to mask hygiene: Don’t share your mask with anyone else, even if you live in the same house! Last thing you want to breathe in someone else’s germs and saliva.
Photo by Tonik on Unsplash