Proper Mask Use During the COVID-19 Outbreak
Masks are a crucial part of living in today’s world. The CDC recommends that members of the public use simple cloth face coverings when in a public setting to slow the spread of COVID-19. This will help people who may have the virus and do not know it avoid transmitting it to others. Chances are good that you have one and wear it out to the grocery store or the other essential businesses you may have to go to. The three most used masks right now are the homemade cloth masks, surgical masks, and N-95 masks (which should be reserved specifically for medical personnel and healthcare workers, not the general public).
There are some rules that apply to all masks: First, you should NEVER share any mask that has already been used. Doing so could spread other types of germs, not just COVID-19. Second, try to avoid touching any part of the mask that doesn’t loop behind your ears. Always avoid touching the inside of your masks, and if you accidentally touch the outside of it, wash your hands with soap and water as pathogens can stick to that side. Finally, try to have multiple masks in case you need to switch them out or discard one. ALWAYS COVER YOUR NOSE AND MOUTH AT ALL TIMES WHILE WEARING YOUR MASK – otherwise it defeats the purpose of wearing one in the first place.
If you’re a mask-user, here are some important questions to ask yourself, with the answers depending on the type of mask you use:
Am I wearing my mask properly?
- Homemade Cloth Mask – With homemade cloth masks, since there’s a chance they aren’t all made equally, you need to find one that fits a few requirements: it needs to fit snuggly, be secured with ties or ear loops, include multiple layers of fabric, allow for breathing without restriction, and be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape. These requirements will ensure the mask is safe for you and the people you’re around.
- Surgical Mask – These are loose fitting, disposable masks that create a barrier between the wearer and the potential contaminants in the immediate environment. If worn properly, a surgical mask is meant to help block large-particle droplets, splashes, sprays, or splatter that may contain germs (viruses and bacteria), keeping it from reaching your mouth and nose. Surgical masks may also help reduce exposure of your saliva and respiratory secretions to others. The level of thickness varies depending on the mask. A surgical face mask, by design, does not filter or block very small particles in the air that may be transmitted by coughs, sneezes, or certain medical procedures. Surgical masks also do not provide complete protection from germs and other contaminants because of the loose fit between the surface of the face mask and your face.
- N-95 – The edges of an N-95 respirator are designed to form a seal around the nose and mouth. You should have a very close facial fit while wearing one. It must block 95% of airborne particles or it is ineffective. These masks are not recommended for people who aren’t properly trained in the usage of them, children, or people with facial hair (the fit would not be tight enough).
Am I changing the mask when I should?
- Homemade Cloth Mask – These types of masks should be changed whenever they get damp. It is always best to have two or three so you can routinely swap them out.
- Surgical Mask – These should also be changed when they get damp, as dampness can make the barrier ineffective. Once they are taken off, they should be thrown away or otherwise discarded.
- N-95 – You should change this mask if you accidentally touch the inside of it, get hazardous material on it (blood/feces/other human excrements), or after being in close contact with anyone who is infected with a disease. Consider using a face shield over these types of masks to reduce surface contamination.
Am I washing/ sanitizing the mask the correct way?
- Homemade Cloth Mask – Avoid touching the inside of these masks, but a simple run through the washer and dryer will suffice to clean them.
- Surgical Masks – These should always be thrown out after each use.
- N-95 – These masks require the most care when washing. Clean the respirator face piece (excluding the cartridges and filters) with either a pre-packaged respirator cleaning wipe or by immersing in warm cleaning solution, water temperature not to exceed 120° F, and scrub with soft brush until clean. Add neutral detergent if necessary. Do not use cleaners containing lanolin or other oils. Finally, rinse in fresh, warm water and air dry in a non-contaminated atmosphere.
Do some research to find the mask that best suits your living situation. A homemade cloth mask would work best for those simply going to the grocery store or picking up food. If you’re working closer to the COVID-19 threat or other possible diseases, it might be wise to invest in an N-95 if your employer hasn’t given you one already. For more information, look on the official CDC or WHO websites. Have a Sensational day and stay safe!
Sensations prides itself on being a safe facility that specializes in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Each of Sensations’ design elements ensures safety and security for our residents. If you have a loved one who has been diagnosed with dementia and are looking for information, please feel free to call us at (517) 543-8101. Our office hours are Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.