Categories: Coronavirus

Using a face mask correctly: Guidance from the doctors

In current times when the novel CoronaVirus is spreading at a furious pace, it has become mandatory for people to wear a mask when stepping out of their homes and when going to public places.

Wearing a mask helps you protect yourself from contracting the highly contagious coronavirus that spreads through droplets released when a person coughs or sneezes. A mask is a malleable sheet of cloth or any other membrane that is put around your face to cover your nose and mouth. It is rectangular and circular in shape with two elastic nooses at the edges to help users fasten them behind their neck or head to hold the mask in place. The mask filters out large microbes, dust, and pollutants from entering your trachea either from your nose or mouth.

They are also designed in a way that facilitates the absorption of moisture that builds up when a person exhales into the mask.

When should you wear a mask?

If you notice that you are in respiratory distress and are coughing and sneezing frequently, it is advised to wear a mask. By doing this, you are limiting the spread of the pathogens inside you and not infecting others with your condition. It is especially important now as you may be a dormant vector of corona fever which is asymptomatic, and by wearing a mask, you are breaking the chain of new infections.

You should also wear a mask whenever you are stepping out in public and find yourself in large gatherings. As a safety precaution, ensure that you maintain a distance of 6 feet from another human being.

Many of us are not very comfortable wearing a mask and do a half-hearted job because the law asks us to do it. Please remember that wearing a mask could prevent you and another human just like you from contracting a deadly condition that currently has no cure.

Here are a few tips for wearing your mask in the correct manner to ensure maximum efficiency:

  • Always wear a mask that is free from wear and tear and has no visible gaps or holes.
  • Wash your hand with soap or rub it with a disinfectant for at least 20 seconds before putting your mask on.
  • The coloured side of the mask faces out while the white side faces in.
  • If you are using disposable masks, dispose of them regularly.
  • If you are using a mask made of cloth, ensure that you wash them regularly with a disinfectant or industrial wash soap to kill all the germs and bacteria that could have accumulated in the period of use.
  • Always cover your nose and your mouth properly and remember to fasten both the loops behind your ear or your face to keep the mask positioned in place.
  • If your mask has a metallic strip, ensure that it is positioned against the ridge of your nose and press the metallic strip to take the shape of your nose.
  • Do not touch the mask with your hands once you’ve put them on.
  • If you are disposing of a mask, ensure that the mask is properly wrapped in a disposable polythene bag and don’t dispose of them in open dustbins.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly for 20 seconds with soap or a disinfectant after disposing of the mask.
  • Do not reuse single-use surgical masks.
  • Do not wear the mask below your nose. Use the mask to cover your mouth and your nose.
  • Do not crisscross the elastic bands used to fasten them around your face as it may leave huge openings. It is thereby reducing its efficiency.
  • Use N95 masks instead of surgical masks as they fit you more efficiently and leave no gap for particles to enter. They are also better at filtering out micro pathogens.
  • An N95 mask is capable of filtering up to 95% of minute test particles (under 0.3 microns) effectively. However, even an N95 mask has its limitations.

How can you ensure that you are safe from contracting an infection in the time of the COVID pandemic:

  • Wash your hands, feet and any other exposed part of the body with soap for 20 seconds.
  • When you are using a hand sanitizer, ensure that it has at least 60% of alcohol.
  • Avoid venturing out to public places unless it is absolutely required.
  • Keep a safe distance of 6 feet from other human beings.
  • Do not touch your mask once it is on your face. If you have to remove your mask, ensure that you wash your hands for 20 seconds before touching it.

Dr. Karthik, Consultant – Internal Medicine, Narayana Multispeciality Hospital – HSR Layout, Bangalore

Narayana Health

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