The Dos and Don'ts of Surgical Masks
Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, national governments of countries around the world have followed the recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on wearing face masks in public settings so as to reduce the transmission of the infectious SARS-CoV-2. This recommendation is vital for the control of the infection spread because the virus is transmitted via respiratory droplets between people interacting in close proximity, such as coughing, sneezing or talking.
Experts emphasize the need to wear face masks. There are many face masks available in the market. These include cloth masks, surgical masks, and N95 respirators. Both surgical masks and N95 respirators have been tested and proven to have adequate levels of protection against SARS-CoV-2. However, because of the shortage of supply, experts agree that N95 should be reserved for healthcare workers only. With that, wearing surgical face masks are highly encouraged to be practiced by the public instead.
Along with physical distancing, wearing a surgical face mask is an effective way of controlling the transmission of COVID-19 - but only if you wear your surgical mask correctly. So to help you get the most out of wearing your face mask, here are some of the DOs and DON’Ts of surgical masks:
Do Choose The Right Mask
There are definitely a number of different face masks in the market. We highly suggest that you use surgical masks that have three or more layers. These surgical masks are proven to provide a physical barrier that reduces the risk of infection with Coronavirus. Surgical face masks are able to block respiratory droplets both from the mouth and nose but still allow breathing comfortability through the nonwoven fabric. It must be noted that you should only buy surgical face masks from certified manufacturers because there are also circulating fake surgical masks that do not offer the same level of protection from the ones that are tested and verified. Lastly, it should be noted that surgical face masks that are made with valves or vents are greatly discouraged because they do not prevent the transmission of Coronavirus. While such face masks may give a sense of protection to you, respiratory droplets from the wearer can still be expelled in the air through the valves or vents in the face mask.
Do Wear Your Mask Always
You are only protected from being infected with COVID-19 if you stay at home, practice social distancing, and wear a mask. With that, if you really need to go out to do a living, then practice wearing your surgical face mask always. This is very important especially in settings where social distancing is not feasible. Wearing your surgical face masks always does not only protect you but also the society as a whole.
Do Make Sure Your Face Masks Fits Your Face Comfortably
Other than the effectiveness of surgical face masks in filtering out infectious pathogens, it is vital that you pick a mask that is comfortable for you so that you can wear them all throughout the day. The function of surgical masks is to block respiratory droplets. With that, to some extent, wearing a face mask will impact the flow of air. Hence, it is important that you choose a mask that still lets you breathe and talk comfortably. so make sure you can breathe and talk without difficulty. Surgical masks have multiple layers to block droplet transmission but are designed to remain breathable.
Furthermore, your surgical face mask should cover your mouth and nose, while making sure that it fits snugly but comfortably on your face. Most masks either have loops or straps that go behind the back of the ears in order to snug fit. Surgical masks come in different sizes. Masks that are too small and masks that are too big with gaps between your face and the mask are less effective. With that, you should make sure to pick the right size so that spaces in the side of your face are reduced which result in better protection against respiratory droplets. It also must be noted that you should refrain using masks that are made from materials that will irritate your skin. The bottomline is you should buy surgical face masks that fits perfectly on your face covering both your mouth and nose, and allows you to breathe and talk comfortably.
Do Put Your Surgical Mask on Properly and Take It Off Correctly
Before wearing your surgical masks, make sure that you have clean hands. Hence, you should wash your hands first. To put your surgical face mask on, grab the mask and pinch it at the ear loops or grasp the upper ties. For ear-loop style masks, secure ear loops behind the ears. For tie back style masks, secure upper ties first behind your head, after that, secure lower ties behind your head.
When you return home, wash your hands before removing your mask. Take the mask off slowly and carefully without touching the outside of it or your eyes, nose or mouth. You can remove the face mask by handling it by the ear loops or straps. For disposable masks, make sure you put in plastic or paper before throwing it. For reusable masks, make sure to put the mask in a dedicated safe place until you wash it. After doing such, wash your hands again.
Do Not Touch Your Surgical Mask When You Are Wearing It
It is important that you do not touch your surgical face masks once it is on. If this is not possible, then you should really limit on touching it. This is why it is important that you should ensure that your mask fits properly because that would mean that you do not need to keep on adjusting it later. There is a risk of contamination when you keep on touching your masks, especially when your hands are already not clean or you already have been exposed to other people. With that, you should practice not to touch your face or your face mask. In cases where you accidentally or unconsciously touch your mask, you should immediately clean your hands afterwards. Bringing a small bottle of rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer is beneficial because you can use it after adjusting your face masks in cases where you really need to do so.
Do Not Put Surgical Masks On A Young Child
Experts agree that children under the age of 2 should not wear surgical face masks. Kids under age 2 are not able to understand all the instructions and most likely will not put the face masks on for a very long time. Only those children aged 2 and above should be instructed to wear a surgical face mask. It is vital for parents and other adult caregivers to wear masks when asking children age 2 and older to put them on. Through this way, children will not be scared when putting them on. It must be noted that young children are at a very low risk of serious illness from COVID-19. However, it is still important to look for surgical face masks that fit your child properly.
Do Not Let The Surgical Masks Put Your Guard Down
Wearing a surgical face mask is a sign of being responsible because it does not only protect you but also protect others. However, it must be remembered that wearing a face mask does not replace other protective measures but only adds to them. With that, social distancing remains one of the most vital steps in protecting yourself from being infected with COVID-19 as well as controlling the rate of transmission. A surgical face mask is not a ticket that allows you to abandon social distancing or disregard other protective measures. Hence, do not let surgical face masks give you a false sense of security to do whatever you want that may harm others. You must remember that droplets wearing surgical face masks is only one of the many steps in protecting yourself and the society. So stay at home if you can, practice social distancing in public places, wear your surgical face mask always and properly, and wash your hands frequently.
- Centers For Disease Control And Prevention. 2020. Facemask Do’s and Don’ts For Healthcare Personnel. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/hcp/fs-facemask-dos-donts.pdf. Retrieved on 5 May 2021.
- Edward-Elmhurst Health. 2020. Dos And Don’ts Of Wearing Face Masks In Public. Retrieved from: https://www.eehealth.org/blog/2020/05/dos-and-donts-face-coverings/. Retrieved on 5 May 2021.
- Health Matters. NewYork-Presbyterian. 2020. How to Wear a Face Mask — Your Guide to the Dos and Don’ts. Retrieved from: https://healthmatters.nyp.org/how-to-wear-a-face-mask-your-guide-to-the-dos-and-donts/. Retrieved on 5 May 2021.
- Pfizer. 2020. The Do's And Don'ts Of Wearing A Face Mask. Retrieved from: https://www.pfizer.com/news/hot-topics/the_do_s_and_don_ts_of_wearing_a_face_mask. Retrieved on 5 May 2021.