Everything You Need to Know About Wearing a Mask
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, medical professionals and scientists have been working around the clock to learn more about the coronavirus. This is why information and safety guidelines continue to evolve.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), however, has been consistent in recommending that people wear masks regularly in public spaces while washing/sanitizing hands and maintaining physical distance.
Wearing a mask is the most significant precaution you can take while outside of your home. Not only does shielding your own face offer protection from others, but it also protects the people around you by limiting your ability to transmit the virus should you be asymptomatic or recently infected.
It has additionally been reported that mask-wearing may offer some form of COVID-19 immunity. Cloth and disposable masks do not offer full protection, but they are able to reduce the amount of virus inhaled in an exposure incident.
As reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, using masks to slow the spread of the virus thus acts as a bridge to the herd immunity we hope to achieve via vaccines.
But knowing the importance of masking up is only the first step. In order to keep yourself and your loved ones healthy, it is critical to understand best wearing practices and good mask maintenance.
Mask Use and Maintenance
COVID-19 spreads rapidly and most commonly through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, laughs, sings, or talks. Maintaining at least 6 feet of physical distance can reduce the risk of exposure. However, there is evidence that droplets and airborne particles may be suspended in the air and travel beyond 6 feet in some cases.
Wearing a mask, then, is the best thing you can do to protect yourself and those around you. But you must wear your mask properly and also take care of it to best reduce spread.
Below are some of the CDC’s recommendations related to mask-wearing and maintenance:
- Make sure the mask fits snugly to your face.
- Secure the mask under your chin and ensure it covers both your mouth and nose.
- Masks with multiple layers are the best but make sure they allow you to breathe.
- Routinely machine wash and dry your mask. Use warm water and dry with high heat.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth while wearing or removing your mask.
- Before and after masking-up, make sure you wash your hands.
Are All Masks Created Equal?
The short answer is “no, they are not.” But some form of face covering is better than nothing at all.
Since the start of the pandemic, medical-grade masks and PPE have been in short supply for first responders and health care workers fighting hard on the frontlines. In an effort to reserve quantities of N-95 respirators and surgical masks, it is recommended that the general public seek out alternative options.
This has created a market flooded with options. You can find everything online, from GuardeX’s lab-tested, FDA-registered Anti-Viral/Anti-Bacterial Mask to a variety of simple cloth fashion masks manufactured by apparel companies.
There are even DIY tutorials on YouTube that will teach you how to make masks out of materials around your home--bandanas, napkins, or old t-shirts. Items like rubber bands and hair ties serve as good makeshift earloops.
Every effort to make sure your face is covered in public is a valid one. But knowing how to wear your mask and how to best keep it functional are both of critical importance. DIY masks, for example, may not hold up well for long-term use. Fashion cloth masks may not be a good choice if you are going to be in a social environment where distancing is difficult. If you have to leave your household often for work, it might be wise to invest in higher quality face coverings with more longevity.
We Are In This Together
If there is one thing we have learned as a result of this unprecedented pandemic, it is that we are only as strong as the efforts of our community. Everyone must be socially responsible, educate themselves, and take proper precautions if we are to successfully defeat this virus. It only happens if we work together. And wearing a mask is the precaution that protects us all.
So know your mask. Understand how it works. Wear it right. And take care of it so that your mask can, in turn, take care of both you and your neighbor.