Unless your career falls within the healthcare sector, chances are you’ve never had to wear a face mask before. A face mask is a loose-fitting mask with elastic ties that go around the ears or behind the head.
Although they were already common in China and other parts of Asia, anyone with a mask out in public would have drawn a lot of attention to themselves. That’s as recent as a few months ago. Now they have become somewhat of a marker of the pandemic era.
As Covid-19 started to spread, governments were initially against people wearing face masks because they feared there would be a shortage, especially for health workers who use them the most. In some countries such as the United States, wearing of face masks has become a heated political concern. A lot of people are not inclined to wear face masks despite being advised otherwise by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
At present, countries such as Turkey, Germany, Morocco, and Austria have made wearing masks in public spaces mandatory. This is because their respective health authorities need people to wear face masks if they’re going to make any progress in reducing the rates of infection and flattening the curve.
Below is a comprehensive breakdown of when and how you should wear your face mask but to better understand that, it’s important that we first analyse in brief how contagious diseases such as Covid-19 are able to spread.
How Communicable Diseases Spread
People hurdled together in confined places such as escalators are highly vulnerable to respiratory diseases. With viruses such as the flu or Covid-19, bacteria can spread very fast in such environments through contact or oral fluids spewed when either sneezing or coughing. Some people also get sick from touching surfaces with bacteria, then proceeding to touch their faces.
Speaking can also facilitate the spread of a disease from one person to another. As people talk, they generate saliva droplets of different sizes to spew from the mouth. the saliva may host infectious pathogens and they may either fall to the ground or linger in the air.
Through the use of high frame rate video, a study by the New England Journey of Medicine revealed that people generate hundreds of oral fluid droplets from speaking a simple phrase. However, almost all these droplets were blocked when the mouth was covered by a mask.
A 3-ply mask is composed of three layers. The inner layer absorbs moisture from exhaled air, the middle layer filters pathogens, while the outer layer holds body fluids from penetrating the mask and potentially infecting breathable air.
If worn in the right way, a mask can prevent the transmission of bacteria and microorganisms from droplets as well as minimizing the chances of hand to face contact.
How To Wear a Face Mask
Wearing a face mask is not a complex process. However, it’s not as straightforward as wearing socks in the morning. Certain precautions need to be observed.
First and foremost, you need to make sure the mask you have fits well around your nose and mouth as they are the parts of your face that are most vulnerable. plenty of masks will fit comfortably on the bridge of the nose as well as the chin.
Your mask can lie below or above the nose depending on its structure. Therefore, the best position is to have it rest where it best seals the nasal openings. For most people, this is usually at the very top of the nose, right below the eyes.
Some masks come with a metallic strip that should be positioned against the bridge of the nose. Use the strip as an indicator of where and in which direction you should wear your mask. Although your chin doesn’t have to be covered, covering it can help you establish a firm seal around your mouth as the goal is to make sure both the mouth and nose are covered.
Having a mask on for the better parts of our days can take some getting used to. However, a mask should not prevent you from breathing normally. If it feels too tight and making you uncomfortable, don’t wear it.
It should fit tight enough to avoid dislodging and having you reposition it every now and then. This might prove counter-productive since it will involve you possibly touching your face on numerous occasions during your day. If you absolutely have to touch your face, then make sure you do so with clean hands.
But be sure to leave no gaps between the mask and your face. Having a few small gaps is normal and can’t be avoided but the smaller and fewer they are, the better. Keep in mind that your face mask is like a ballistic vest, but for your face.
When you breathe in, air will use routes providing minimal resistance to get into your body. If you have gaps between the mask and your face, then the air will go through these gaps rather than through the mask thus neutralizing the benefits of wearing the mask. You need the air you breathe to go through the mask so it can get filtered before you inhale it.
One thing to keep a note of is to wash your hands with soap or water, or use a sanitizer before and after wear or remove your face mask. Your mask might be clean but once you touch the inside of it with dirty hands, you might be putting your hygiene and overall health at risk. Therefore, you should try your best to keep your mask as clean and sanitary as possible.
If you’re in an environment where it’s not possible to clean your hands, try to pick up the face mask by its ties. To remove your mask safely, unhook the ties or bands by lifting them over your head or ears without touching your face.
If you think the sanitary state of your mask has been compromised, then it’s best you clean your mask with soap and warm water. If the mask is not washable like cloth face masks are, then dispose of it and get a replacement.
Make sure that you don’t share masks with anyone. Doing so is completely unhygienic and might expose you and the person you’re sharing with to respiratory conditions, if not Covid-19. Also, don’t put masks on children under the age of 2 or on anyone with difficulty breathing.
Situations When You Should Wear a Mask
Whether or not wearing a face mask is mandatory within your area of residence, you should always wear your mask whenever you go out. It’s going to be hard avoiding routine errands but doing so means it will be extremely difficult to maintain social distancing. You’re going to be out in public and will probably be no less than 2 or 3 feet away from other people so wear a mask.
Bear in mind that face masks are not a substitute for social distancing. Just because you always have one on does not mean that you should put yourself in socially interactive spaces.
If you’re driving then there’s little reason for you to have a mask on. However, if you’re going to do pickups or just filling your gas tank, then it’s best that you put your mask on and keep hand sanitizer on you for quick use when necessary.
A lot of people don’t have cars so they use public transport. In such scenarios, be it on the bus or train, wear a mask and keep yourself away from people as much as you can. As far as visitations go, in light of how sensitive things are at the moment, going to your friend’s house would not be the safest thing to do. But if you must, wear a mask, sanitize, and observe social distancing.
You should also reconsider doing those routine visits to the doctor or dentist for checkups. If it’s something that cannot be put on hold, then call in advance to find out whether they have safety measures in place. Health centers have a lot of human traffic more so during this time so make sure you’re wearing a mask when you visit their premises.
By Protecting Yourself, You Protect Others
At this time, when the coronavirus plagues the world, wearing face masks has become very essential. Face masks are important for curbing the spread of communicable diseases. As people are becoming more acquainted to living with the novel coronavirus, health authorities are urging their citizens to wear face masks when in public.
if you wear your face mask to protect yourself from getting infected by someone, and the other person also wears a face mask to protect themselves from you, the risk of transmission will significantly decrease, thus playing a strong role in flattening the curve.
This, as well as social distancing and good hand hygiene, will be significant in limiting the spread of the coronavirus as the world resumes normalcy.