The Best Way To Wear A Face Mask To Protect Against Coronavirus
It's been one of the most frequently asked questions since the coronavirus developed into a global pandemic: should I be wearing a face mask? The British public are advised to wear face coverings when in crowded places as part of the UK government's lockdown easing plan – a stance also taken by officials at the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States. Yet, some people are still unsure about what is the correct way to wear a face mask during this pandemic.
While the efficacy of masks against the spread of COVID-19 is still up for debate, wearing a mask incorrectly is risky. The UK government website now has a page dedicated to the proper practices when it comes to wearing a face mask, and the World Health Organisation (WHO) has also published a document with advice on this topic.
One thing experts seem to agree on is that you do not need to wear a surgical-grade mask to be safe. In fact, N95 masks should be prioritised for medical staff and carers. Masks and cloth face coverings can be made using common home supplies and if you're interested in making your own, gov.uk has instructions on how to do so.
Whatever kind face mask you have, it's important to make sure you are using it in the correct way. Stay as safe as possible by avoiding common mistakes with this easy step-by-step checklist.
1. Do not touch your mask while wearing it
Avoid touching the front of your mask and the part that comes into contact with your nose and mouth as much as possible. When taking the mask on or off, you should use the ear loops or ties and, once it's on, do not adjust it. After you've taken the mask off, do not touch your face at all until you have washed your hands thoroughly.
2. Make sure it covers your mouth and nose
Your mask should cover your mouth and nose while allowing you to breathe comfortably. In most cases, this means it'll come down below the chin and sit over the bridge of your nose. Be sure the mask is secure so it won't slip down while you're out and about.
3. Keep gaps to a minimum
Tightening your mask to minimise gaps will ensure the best protection and avoid it slipping while you're out and about.
4. Use clean hands
Wash your hands or use hand sanitiser at every stage of using your mask: before putting it on, before taking it off, and after taking it off. As mentioned earlier, do not touch or adjust your mask once it's in place.
5. Wash your mask regularly
You should wash your face covering regularly.
According to Dr Yves Van Laethem, an infectious disease expert who spoke to the Brussels Times, "face masks should be machine washed at 60 degrees Celsius with conventional detergent — you don’t need any particular disinfectants." If you do not have access to a washing machine, Van Laethem suggests putting the face mask in a pot with simmering water or ironing it at a temperature "above that at which the virus may survive."
You should store used face coverings in a plastic bag until you have an opportunity to wash them.
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