Face coverings have become an essential tool in the fight against COVID-19. But it’s not enough to just have one on.
Making sure you have the proper mask and that you wear it correctly can make all the difference.
“Don’t just wear your mask,” says Mary Anderson, manager of infection control at Edward Hospital. “Wear it well.”
It doesn’t do you or anyone else any good if your mask is hanging down beneath your nostrils or doesn’t fit right. Your mask should cover your nose and fit snugly under your chin and against your face. If you wear eyeglasses, you may want to consider choosing a mask with a metal clip at the nose to help keep your glasses from fogging up.
Once you’ve found a mask that fits, wear it. That mask helps prevent the spread of germs and aids in the fight against COVID-19.
“The CDC estimates that 20-40 percent of people with COVID-19 have no symptoms,” says Anderson. “That means you could be spreading virus to others without ever knowing you are infected. Masks are recommended as a simple barrier to help prevent respiratory droplets from traveling into the air and onto other people when the person wearing the mask coughs, sneezes, talks or raises their voice.”
You should be sure to wear a face covering whenever you are in an indoor or outdoor setting that is not your home and you cannot ensure 6 feet of social distancing.
What do you do if you’re out and notice someone not properly wearing a mask? If you feel comfortable enough, you could politely ask the person to adjust their mask and note that it helps both you and them, says Anderson.
If that’s not an option for you, you could consider simply avoiding that person. For example, in the grocery store, you could take a wide path around the person with the mask barely covering their mouth to protect yourself, says Anderson.
Anderson also offers a few tips on selecting a mask:
- If you are using a cloth mask, select one that is at least two layers thick but breathable. The fabric should be tightly woven (the less light that comes through, the better the fabric) but not so thick that you can’t breathe when wearing the mask. Cloth masks should be regularly laundered in hot water and on the highest heat in the dryer.
- Paper masks are also acceptable, but keep in mind those are not meant to be used over and over. Use it and properly dispose it.
- N-95 masks are not necessary for running to the grocery store or going to the office and should be reserved for healthcare workers. A cloth or paper mask will do the job just fine for everyday use.
- Though gaiters and other similar type of face coverings may be appealing, keep in mind the efficacy of those coverings have not been proven, Anderson warns. You are better off sticking with a traditional cloth or paper face covering.
- Stay away from masks with any type of vents. Those vents allow unfiltered air to be released, which could be a risk to others.
While you may want to rip that mask off your face as soon as you leave the office or walk out of the store, resist the urge. Wait until you get to your car or in a place where you can clean your hands and then carefully remove your mask by the ear loops. Don’t touch the front of the mask as it may be contaminated, says Anderson.
Once the mask is off, fold it in half so the clean part of the mask (the inner portion of your mask) is facing out. You can place your mask in a paper bag or another clean receptacle (like your pocket or a dedicated compartment in your purse). You may also opt to hang it from your mirror in your car or set it — outside material facing down — on your passenger seat.
Doing your part to properly wear (and care for) your mask can help everyone. “Your mask protects you but it also protects others,” says Anderson. “If we all wear our masks well, our community will be a safer place.”
For updates on our planning and response efforts as we work to stop the spread of COVID-19, please check EEHealth.org/coronavirus.