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7 Terrible Mistakes With Your Face Mask and How To Avoid It

Place a face mask on before you go out to help avoid the spread of the novel coronavirus. "No shoes, no hats, no masks, no service."

7 Terrible Mistakes With Your Face Mask and How To Avoid It

Place a face mask on before you go out to help avoid the spread of the novel coronavirus. "No shoes, no hats, no masks, no service." The slogan is catching on around the country in neighborhoods. That's because wearing a mask is the most powerful method to avoid COVID-19 from spreading, according to an article in the National Academy of Sciences' Proceedings in June 2020.

Of course, the protective value of masks depends in part on how they are used. If people, when handling or removing a mask, are genuinely careless about masking or sloppy, they may put themselves and others at risk.

So what are the most common mishaps in face masks, and how can we avoid them? We have turned to aerobiology, infectious disease, and public health experts for a fact check on best practices for the use of face coverings and were we that all fall a little short.

Error 1: Forgoing a Mask

Anyone aged 2 and older should wear a cloth face that covers people outside their household, particularly when it is difficult to maintain social distance, through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( CDC).

Kate Grabowski, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the pathology department at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, says that it's especially important "in high-risk areas where social isolation is difficult." She admits that wearing a mask probably isn't much of a help if you're, says, running alone in the woods.

According to the CDC, the mask acts as a barrier to prevent infectious drops and droplets from landing on other people. You may not even know you are sick, it is very probable. Forty percent of people with SAR-CoV-2, the COVID-19-causing virus, never show signs of the disease per CDC.

Keeping spittle and other large airborne particles in the bay is not the only reason for masking. Assembling evidence suggests that exhalation of a person can produce aerosols that hang in the air. COVID-19 's potential for airborne dissemination in sealed, crowded, or poorly ventilated spaces is especially alarming, according to a July 2020 commentary in Clinical Infectious Diseases signed by more than 200 scientists.

"Handwashing and social distancing are necessary but, in our opinion, inadequate to provide protection against virus-carrying respiratory microdroplets released into the air by infected persons," the authors warn.

Donald K. Milton, MD, DrPH, professor of applied environmental health at the University of Maryland School of Public Health in College Park, Maryland, and a co-author of the commentary, says that wearing a cloth mask in these environments does not remove infectious pollution. "So if everybody does that and you ventilate those rooms, the amount of contamination will go down significantly, the chance of infection will go down a long way and we won't have these super-spreading incidents."

Error 2: Donning an ill-fitted Mask

7 Terrible Mistakes With Your Face Mask and How To Avoid It

To work properly, a face mask has to cover the nose. It's almost difficult to avoid photos in the news or real-life experiences with adults and children wearing masks visible to their nostrils. You will often see people whose masks are falling down as they talk.
"As wearing your mask, make sure your nose, mouth, and chin are covered."
Proper fit is key, says Kendra McMillan, RN, MPH, senior nursing practice and work environment policy consultant at the American Nurses Association in Silver Spring, Maryland. "It's not supposed to be so close that it impedes your breathing capacity, but it should also have a fit around the face so it can stay in place," McMillan says.

"When you wear your mask you want to make sure that your nose, mouth, and chin are hidden," she says.

Error 3: Touching or Wiggling Your Mask

Note that mask-wearing is mainly intended to prevent infection from spreading to others. But if you're pulling it off constantly, that "defeats the whole point," Grabowski says. "If you take off the mask and then cough or start talking, COVID-19 could potentially spread."

Keeping that face cover in place limits the amount of virus you 're emitting into your local environment.

Touching the front of the mask often puts the wearer at risk. When the outer surface is exposed to viral particles and you touch the mask and then touch your neck, Grabowski says, "you might possibly get contaminated."

Error 4: Skipping the Water and Soap or Hand Sanitizer

7 Terrible Mistakes With Your Face Mask and How To Avoid It

Clean your hands before putting your face mask on, and then remove it again. The CDC recommends washing your hands before putting on your mask, and if you happen to touch the mask while you're out you should wash your hands again. You'll have to remove your mask to eat while you're dining out so don't forget to bring a hand sanitizer along.

When you are finished, untie the strings or cut the ear loops from your mouth, fold together the outside corners of the covering face, and put the object in the laundry using the CDC. And wash forthwith your hands.

If you're wearing gloves — and if you're running to the ATM or grocery shopping, using the CDC, they 're not really necessary — remove them first, wash your hands, then remove your mask and wash your hands.

Error 5: Not Washing your Fabric Face Mask

"Will you ever wear the same pair of underwear again and again?" asks Grabowski. (Eww, no!) She claims the same is true of fabric masks. Ideally, you should wash the masks (and underwear) after every use.

How to Clean The Mask and Dry?

  1. In a washing machine: Stick it in at the warmest temperature level for your daily laundry, which makes sense for the type of fabric you are washing, per CDC.
  2. By hand: blend 4 teaspoons of bleach with a quarter of water and wash the mask according to the CDC in that mixture. Or, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), use the soap or detergent along with hot water.
  3. Dry: Let your mask dry, preferably in direct sunlight, on hot or dry air.
Instead, with this solution, you can prolong your laundry cycles: buy seven masks, one for each day of the week, and hang them after use in a warm spot, Dr. Milton suggests. The first mask in the process will be ready for use once again by day eight. According to an April 2020 report in the New England Journal of Medicine, SARS-CoV-2 only lives on surfaces for a matter of hours to days.

Error 6: Reusing your Disposable Mask

Only a single time should be used for disposable face masks. For daily use, you can buy stacks of non-medical grade face masks online. They are lightweight and suitable for disposal but are they safe to reuse?

Experts say it may not be a smart idea. Could degrade the filtering layers. Might stretch out the ear loops. They get doped up.

"If they are single-use and disposable, they can be disposed of after one use," says Grabowski. "What we don't want is that masks become a risk to somebody."

Error 7: Missing The Mask

They still need to take prevention seriously, before a COVID-19 vaccine or drug treatment becomes readily available. This means constant social distancing, grooming of the hands, and, indeed, wearing masks.

"See to it that you always have one handy to travel with," says McMillan.

Does that mean you've got to carry one in your car? If you're traveling alone or with your family, maybe not so. But by the Cleveland Clinic, put on a mask whether you're ride-sharing or stopping at a drive-though slot. If you plan to make multiple stops during one trip, it makes sense to keep your mask on the whole time to avoid repeated touching of your face.

"When you're out and about," adds McMillan, "it's gotta be part of your routine: you've got your keys, your camera, your mask."

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