The decision by public health authorities on whether or not to recommend the use of face masks was a difficult one. One of the biggest reasons was that educating the public on how to safely wear a face mask is challenging, because of the many details involved.
During my recent forays into the public, here are the top 5 issues I have seen with people wearing masks:
- Pulling the face mask down over your chin. This is probably the number one mistake. After wearing a mask while outside for a walk or going to the grocery store, you may need to talk to someone more clearly, eat or just “want a break” from it – so you pull it down over your chin. By doing this, you effectively contaminate yourself with any virus particles that were on your mask prior to that. The rule is once you put your mask on, don’t pull it down. It’s either on or it’s off and there is no in between. Minor adjustments to its position can be made but only if done safely (see below).
- Not covering your nose. We breathe through our mouths and our noses. Many people cover only their mouth with their face mask, which means they can easily breathe in the virus through their nose. They can also transmit the virus to others through their nose. Always cover both your nose and your mouth.
- Touching the mask. Never touch the mask once it’s on your face. You can transmit the virus that was on your hands onto your mask that way. Before putting on your mask, wash or sanitize your hands. After putting the mask on, you will need to wash or sanitize your hands again. Do not touch the mask again, unless you just need to make a minor adjustment to its position. If an adjustment is needed, wash or sanitize your hands, adjust your mask slightly, and then wash or sanitize your hands once more.
- Wearing the mask upside down. If you are wearing a medical grade mask, the metal piece on the mask is to be worn around the bridge of your nose and adjusted to fit. The folded edge of the pleats on the mask itself should be on the bottom.
- Wearing a moist mask. Once a mask is worn for a period of time, it can become moist. A moist mask no longer acts as a protective barrier and is dangerous to wear. While running the other day, I observed a lady doing heavy gardening and lawn work with a face mask on, which had obviously become sweaty and moist. For the same reason, jogging with a mask can be problematic. It would be best to practice physical distancing measures when participating in such activities rather than wear an essentially ineffective mask.
Wearing a face mask is a public health measure that is likely to be helpful at this time of the pandemic. However, doing so requires a careful understanding of how to wear one properly. Remember, once you arrive home, wash or sanitize your hands, then remove your face mask. Immediately place it in the wash or dispose of it, and wash or sanitize your hands again right after. Please stay safe, everyone!