Coronavirus: How NOT to Wear a Mask

In All Health Watch, Coronavirus, Featured Article, General Health, Health Warning

Suddenly masks are everywhere. 

Americans are taking seriously the CDC’s revised guidelines to wear masks in public at all times. The problem is that many of us find them uncomfortable. So we tug on them. We pull them down so our noses are exposed. Or we pull them off completely to speak.

That’s exactly what you shouldn’t do.

“Wearing a mask takes some getting used to,” says anesthesiologist Dr. Scott Segal. “You are probably wearing it exactly right if it’s a little stuffy.”[1]

Shan Soe-Lin is a lecturer at the Yale Jackson Institute for Global Affairs. “You should absolutely not be pulling up and putting down your mask while you’re out,” she says. “If you’re going to the trouble of using a mask, leave it on.”

Just as important as wearing your mask the right way is knowing how to remove it correctly. 

Doctors say the best reason to wear a mask is in case you unknowingly have the coronavirus. It helps reduce the risk of passing it to others. But it’s also beneficial if you’re uninfected. A mask could stop any infected droplets from someone’s cough or sneeze from entering your mouth or nose…. Until you remove the mask the wrong way.

Always take a mask off by the ear bands, or from the back if you’re using a piece of cloth tied around your face. Then, either throw it out or wash it. Never touch the front. When you do that, whatever anyone expelled into the air is now on your hands.

“That’s what I see all the time,” says Dr. Daniel Griffin. He’s an infectious disease expert at Columbia University. “That’s why in studies, masks fail.”[2]

7 Rules for Wearing a Mask

  1. Wash your hands before putting it on and after removing it. Follow the protocol: Use soap and hot water and wash for at least 20 seconds.
  2. Make sure it covers everything from the bridge your nose to the bottom of your chin.
  3. Make sure it’s snug. A droopy mask can allow airborne droplets to enter from the sides.
  4. When you’re in a public place, keep it in place. Don’t push it down even for a couple of seconds to get an occasional breath of fresh air.
  5. If you live in an apartment or condo, don’t take your mask off until you’re in your unit. Keep it on while in your building’s elevators or stairwells.Even if no one’s there while you are, there can be a high level of contamination.
  6. Don’t reuse a mask without first washing it. “You don’t take this dirty mask off, put it in your purse and then stick it back on your face,” says Dr. Griffin.
  7. Store it in a clean, dry place. Ideally, a drawer, where it’s not likely to be inadvertently touched or exposed to the virus.

Mask wearing is now a fact of American life. Doing it right can cut your chances of getting COVID-19.

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