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How to Use a Face Mask Correctly?

Wearing a face mask often helps people feel protected and reassured.
But can a surgical face mask keep you from being exposed to or
transmitting certain infectious diseases?

And, if face masks do shield you from infectious diseases,
such as COVID-19, is there a proper way to put them on, take them off,
and discard them? Keep reading to find out.

What is a surgical face mask?

A surgical mask is a loose-fitting, disposable mask that’s rectangular
in shape. The mask has elastic bands or ties that can be looped
behind your ears or tied behind your head to hold it in place.
A metal strip may be present at the top of the mask and can be
pinched to fit the mask around your nose.

A properly worn three-ply surgical mask may help block transmission of
large-particle microorganisms from droplets, sprays, splatters,
and splashes. The mask may also reduce the likelihood of hand-to-face contact.

The surgical mask’s three-ply layers work as follows:

The outer layer repels water, blood, and other body fluids.
The middle layer filters certain pathogens.
The inner layer absorbs moisture and sweat from exhaled air.

However, the edges of surgical masks don’t form a tight seal around
your nose or mouth. Therefore, they can’t filter out small airborne
particles such as those transmitted by coughing or sneezing.

When should you wear a face mask?

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends using surgical masks only if you:

-have a fever, cough, or other respiratory symptoms

-are well but caring for someone with a respiratory illness — in this case,
wear a mask when you’re within 6 feet or closer to the person who is ill

Although a surgical mask helps trap larger respiratory droplets,
it can’t protect you from contracting the novel coronavirus,
which is known as SARS-CoV-2. That’s because surgical masks:

don’t filter out smaller airborne particles

don’t fit snugly on your face, so airborne particles can leak in
through the sides of the mask

Some studies have failed to show that surgical masks effectively prevent
exposure to infectious diseases in community or public settings.

At present, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
doesn’t recommend that the general public wear surgical masks or N95
respirators to protect from respiratory illnesses like COVID-19.
Healthcare providers and first responders need these supplies,
and there’s currently a shortage of them.

However, in the case of COVID-19, the CDC does advise the general
public to wear cloth face coverings to prevent the spread of the
disease. The CDC also provides instructions on how to make your own.

How to put on a surgical mask?

If you need to wear a surgical mask, take the following steps
to put one on correctly.

Steps to putting on a face mask

Before putting on the mask, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds
with soap and water, or rub your hands together thoroughly
with alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Check for defects in the face mask, such as tears or broken loops.

Position the colored side of the mask outward.

If present, make sure the metallic strip is at the top of the mask
and positioned against the bridge of your nose.

If the mask has:

Ear loops: Hold the mask by both ear loops and place one loop over each ear.

Ties: Hold the mask by the upper strings. Tie the upper strings in
a secure bow near the crown of your head. Tie the bottom strings
securely in a bow near the nape of your neck.

Dual elastic bands: Pull the top band over your head and position
it against the crown of your head. Pull the bottom band over your head
and position it against the nape of your neck.

Mold the bendable metallic upper strip to the shape of your nose
by pinching and pressing down on it with your fingers.

Pull the bottom of the mask over your mouth and chin.

Be sure the mask fits snugly.

Don’t touch the mask once in position.

If the mask gets soiled or damp, replace it with a new one.

What not to do when wearing a surgical mask?

Once the mask is positioned securely, there are certain precautions
to keep in mind to ensure you don’t transfer pathogens to your face or hands.

Do not:

touch the mask once it’s secured on your face, as it might have pathogens on it

dangle the mask from one ear

hang the mask around your neck

crisscross the ties

reuse single-use masks

If you have to touch the face mask while you’re wearing it,
wash your hands first. Be sure to also wash your hands afterward,
or use hand sanitizer.