As cited by the BBC, a face mask is your best defense against COVID-19, but it should not give you a false of security. Even if you have a face mask on all the time, you’ll only be safe if you pay equal attention to social distancing and hand sanitization. All three measures are equally important!
Having established that, let’s learn how to use a face mask effectively to protect yourself against COVID-19:
How does the virus spread?
A deeper understanding of how the novel coronavirus spreads will help you understand why wearing a face mask is important at all times. You even need to keep the mask on if you’re maintaining the required 6-foot distance from people.
Coronavirus spreads through respiratory air droplets. These are released into the air when an infected person sneezes, coughs, or even talks. Although the bigger particles may fall to the ground and stick to surfaces, the smaller ones may stay suspended in the air for several hours.
This means that there is a risk of lingering coronavirus droplets in any room that was visited by an infected person.
According to studies, a single cough can produce as many as 3,000 infectious air droplets. In fact, the infected person doesn’t always have to cough or sneeze to let out these droplets. There are reports that state that an infected person can spray thousands of infectious droplets just by saying the words ‘stay healthy.’
What does a face mask do?
For a virus that spreads through people inhaling air droplets, your only defense is to not breathe air in directly. This is where a face mask comes in. The World Health Organization recommends the use of face masks for all individuals, especially ones who are visibly sick and are coughing.
Although different types of masks provide different levels of protection, surgical-grade masks might just be the right choice for you. According to a report by The Guardian, you can put on any mask as long as it’s tight-fitting and covers the face well.
How to best use a face mask?
Here are some guidelines given out by the World Health Organization regarding the proper use of face masks:
- The first step is to wash your hands with an alcohol-based sanitizer or hand wash.
- Pick up the mask from the strings on the sides. Don’t touch the mask itself.
- Make sure the mask completely covers your nose and mouth.
- If it’s a single-use mask, replace it as soon as you’re done using it.
- Don’t touch the mask from the front when you’re removing it. Dispose of the mask in a closed bin immediately.
- Wash your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub again, after you’ve removed the mask.