Over the last few months as the world has continued to try to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, masks and face coverings have become an increasingly hot topic. Back in the spring, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) began recommending that the general public wear face masks or face coverings as a way to help slow the spread of the illness, but masks have become highly controversial, particularly over the course of the summer as businesses began requiring them for customers, governments began issuing orders mandating them for citizens and some people refused to wear them at all. All controversy aside, medical experts agree wearing a mask can help prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, if you have been wearing masks or face coverings, there’s still a chance you haven’t been using them properly, which can decrease their effectiveness.
“When it comes to masks, there’s a right way and a wrong way to use them,” said Mary Kathryn Cockrill from Blount Memorial’s Infection Control team sharing information from the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC). “For starters, you want to make sure your mask covers your nose and mouth, and is snugly secured beneath your chin. It also should fit comfortably against the sides of your face. You don’t want to wear a mask that is too loose or slides down. If your mask has a metal piece inside that covers the bridge of your nose, remember to mold it tightly. This will help the mask fit your face more properly and help contain any droplets,” she explained.
“We all should be washing our hands before we put our masks on, as well as after we take them off,” Cockrill continued. “When putting a mask on, it’s important to use the ear loops or ties to handle it, instead of the front of the mask. The same is true for when we take them off – only use the ties or the loops. Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth when you remove it, as well, and never touch the outside of masks while you’re wearing it. Don’t dangle them off an ear or pull them down to talk. Pulling it under the chin or nose will essentially make it ineffective,” she explained.
Whether your mask is disposable, or reusable makes a difference, too. “If you have a cloth mask, it’s critical to wash it between uses, especially if it looks soiled,” Cockrill said. “Just a quick wash with soap and water in your washing machine should do the trick. Once it’s clean, you want to store it in a clean environment until you need to use it again. If you have a mask that is disposable, remember to throw it away after you’re done using it and don’t reuse it,” she added.