If you want to avoid getting or spreading coronavirus, there is one thing you must do: Wear a face mask every time you’re in public. That’s the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which also notes it’s important for you to wear your mask correctly. Some mistakes are easy to make and can defeat the mask’s purpose: Protection. Read on, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had Coronavirus.
If you’re using a disposable mask, discard it once you’re at home. If you have a cloth mask, wash it after each day’s wear.
After you’ve worn a mask out in public, consider it potentially contaminated and in need of a wash. Have some extras on hand so you’re not tempted to repeatedly use a mask that could be dirty.
Before putting on a mask, wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, and while you’re wearing it, keep your hands away from your face. If your hands contain coronavirus or other microbes, and you touch or scratch the mask surface, you could potentially breathe in those germs.
If you go out in public multiple times a day with a stop at home in between, it’s a good idea to be safe and change masks for each trip.
Don’t try to disinfect a cloth or paper mask by spraying it with Lysol or other disinfectants. You don’t want to breathe in that kind of chemical residue.
Remember that a mask’s job is to shield both your mouth and nose from virus passing in or out. If you wear it below your nose, you’ve just slashed its effectiveness by half. An effective mask should fit over your mouth and nose with no gaps between your face and the mask.
Make sure your mask fits snugly but comfortably over your mouth and nose. A mask that’s too loose might not provide optimal protection.
A face mask that gets damp or wet becomes less effective, Dr. Shan Soe-Lin, a lecturer at the Yale Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, told the New York Times. If something moistens your mask, switch it out for a new one. And make sure your mask is completely dry after washing and before wearing.
Taking your mask on or off repeatedly, or fidgeting with the straps, can potentially contaminate it, said Dr. Soe-Lin. Observe a strict hands-off policy while you’re wearing it.
When taking off your mask, don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth—you can transfer germs that way. Remove the mask by touching the straps or ties only, and wash your hands immediately after taking it off.
The Mayo Clinic advises against storing a mask in your pocket for later use—that could lead to contamination. To store your mask, fold it inward so the contaminated area touches itself, and put it in a paper bag. (That’s better than plastic, because paper allows for more air circulation, which helps any moisture evaporate.)
If you’re having trouble breathing or feel really uncomfortable in your mask, switch to another material that’s more bearable. If your mask causes discomfort, you’re likely to touch it more often to adjust it, which can introduce germs.
Doing so will dampen the material and make it less effective, and you could introduce any germs trapped in the mask into your mouth.
Every mask should be considered single-use, before you throw it away or wash it. Don’t share your mask with others if you’ve already worn it.
The evidence is clear—wearing a face mask can seriously reduce the spread of coronavirus. No matter who you are: wear a face-covering unless your doctor advises against it, only leave the home if it’s essential, wash your hands frequently, practice social distancing, monitor your health and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.