When and How to Use Face Masks

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the “use of cloth face coverings to help slow the spread of COVID-19.” As more and more US states begin to re-open for business, several cities and counties are taking this recommendation one step further and making it mandatory to cover up.

If you’re wondering when you should wear face masks and how you should use them, this article has all the answers. 

When to Wear a Coronavirus Face Mask 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), you must wear a mask in the following circumstances:

  • While taking care of a person with COVID-19.
  • If you are coughing or sneezing.

Some studies have suggested that wearing a face mask can offer much more protection when compared with using no barrier, so it’s widely recommended that everyone wears a mask any time that they are in a public place such as a supermarket or pharmacy.  

However, depending on where you live, whether or not to wear a mask in other scenarios is voluntary, so it’s down to you to decide if you want to cover your face outside your home.

If you’re wondering, “do I need to wear a mask while exercising?”, again, it’s your choice. Many runners and cyclists recommend a compromise of protection and comfort, in the form of neck gaiters. These tubes of fabric can be worn around the neck and pulled up when passing other people. 

How to use a Cloth Mask to Protect Against Coronavirus

When wearing a cloth mask, it’s important to ensure that you know how to use it and clean it properly.

  • Before putting on your mask, take care to thoroughly clean your hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand gel.
  • Place your mask on your face so that it securely covers your mouth and nose. Make sure there are no gaps between your face and the mask.
  • Once your mask is secured, do not touch it. If you do touch your mask, clean your hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand gel.
  • Ideally, you should replace your mask with a new one every 30 minutes. 
  • Remove the mask from behind to avoid touching the front section. Put the mask in your washing machine immediately, then wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water or alcohol-based hand gel.
  • If you don’t have a washing machine, handwash your mask using soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.

How to use a Medical Mask to Protect Against Coronavirus

If you prefer to use a surgical mask, you must ensure that you wear it properly and dispose of it in a safe way.

  • Before putting on your mask, take care to thoroughly clean your hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand gel.
  • Find the top side of the mask (where the stiff edge is).
  • Make sure that the colored side faces outwards.
  • Place your mask on your face so that it securely covers your mouth and nose. Adjust the stiff edge to ensure there are no gaps between your face and the mask.
  • Once your mask is secured, do not touch it. If you do touch your mask, clean your hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand gel.
  • Ideally, you should replace your mask with a new one every 30 minutes. 
  • Do not re-use single-use masks.
  • Remove the mask from behind to avoid touching the front section. Discard it immediately in a closed bin, then wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water or alcohol-based hand gel.

What are the Dangers of Wearing a Face Mask?

Used correctly, there are no clear drawbacks to wearing a face mask to protect against coronavirus. To keep yourself and others safe, the following precautions are recommended:

  • Don’t put a mask on anyone who is unconscious or will have trouble removing it themselves.
  • People who have trouble breathing should use masks with extreme caution.
  • Face masks aren’t suitable for children under the age of 2.

Will Wearing a Face Mask Protect You From Coronavirus?

Studies have shown that when used properly, face masks can help protect against COVID-19. To ensure that you’re keeping yourself and those around you safe, it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines on how to use, clean, and dispose of masks.

Remember, though, that using a mask is not a substitute for responsible behavior including regular hand-washing and social distancing.

For up-to-date face mask requirements, we recommend that you check your particular state’s current guidelines.

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