Your guide to wearing and caring for your mask amid the pandemic

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Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and even before the World Health Organization (WHO) declared it a pandemic, experts recommended wearing masks to battle the virus. Wearing a mask reduces risk of infection as it traps the virus particles, stopping them before they are released into the air. However, masks are only effective when worn and taken care of properly.

How to wear a mask

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends washing your hands before handling a mask. “Put it over your nose and mouth, secure it under your chin, and try to fit it snugly against the sides of your face,” the CDC’s website states. They also recommend against a mask that has a valve or vent, and instead ask people to opt for cloth masks.

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The WHO has a step-by-step guide on how to properly wear a face mask:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly.
  • Touch the mask only from the bands/straps.
  • Adjust the mask so it covers the nose, mouth and chin, without leaving any gaps.
  • Avoid touching it once it’s properly set on your face

How to remove a mask

The WHO recommends:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly.
  • Carefully remove it from the straps, and store in a resealable plastic bag if you are reusing it.
  • Wash your hands again.
  • Wash reusable mask with detergent and water at least once a day.

It’s advisable to clean the mask with soap and water, and not sanitisers. Anita Mathew, consultant physician, and Infectious Disease Specialist, Fortis Hospital, earlier told us, “Cloth masks should be washed, not sanitised. Whether a disinfectant spray is harmful or not will depend upon the ingredients which used in it, so it is recommended to not use disinfectant sprays (to clean them).”

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Don’t touch your mask while wearing it, don’t let it slip

Dr Faheem Younus, MD, and Chief of Infectious Diseases, University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health, recommended what not to do while wearing a mask, and how to ensure you remain safe while wearing a mask:

  • Don’t touch the front/outside
  • of the mask
  • Don’t let it slip below your nose
  • Don’t take if off while talking
  • Don’t reuse if soiled, wet or torn
  • Don’t use the one with a valve

In case touching your face is unavoidable when wearing a mask, Dr Younus suggested in an interaction with a news channel that you sanitise your hands immediately after, and not touch your body.

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