The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that people wear masks in public settings at events and gatherings, and anywhere they will be around other people (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021). Masks prevent respiratory droplets from spreading to other people and provide protection to the wearer (Stieg, 2021). Wearing a surgical mask underneath a cloth mask can maximize protection. If surgical masks are not available, multilayer cloth masks can block up to 50-70% of particles and limit the spread of COVID-19 (Stieg, 2021).
What Kind of Masks Should I Use?
The CDC also has recommendations on choosing a mask.
Do choose masks that:
- Have two or more layers of washable, breathable fabric
- Completely cover your nose and mouth
- Fit snugly against the sides of your face and do not have gaps
- Have a nose wire to prevent air from leaking out of the top of the mask
Do not choose masks that:
- Are made of fabric that makes it hard to breathe, such as vinyl
- Have exhalation valves or vents which allow virus particles to escape
- Are intended for healthcare workers, including N95 respirators
- Combine two disposable masks as this will not improve fit
Proper Handling of Masks
For the best protection, wear a mask correctly and consistently. Be sure to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer before putting on a mask. Avoid touching your mask while wearing it. If you have to touch or adjust the mask often, it doesn’t fit properly so you may need to find a different one or make adjustments to it (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021). In addition to properly wearing a mask, you should also correctly remove your mask and clean it regularly.
How to Take off a Mask
- Carefully remove the strings behind your head or ears.
- Handle the mask only by the ear loops or ties.
- Fold the outside corners together, so that the exterior of the mask is folded together.
- Be careful not to touch your eyes, nose, and mouth when removing the mask. Wash your hands immediately after removing it.
How to Clean a Mask
- Reusable masks should be washed regularly.
- Include your mask with your regular laundry.
- Use regular laundry detergent and the warmest water setting appropriate for the cloth used to make the mask.
- Use the highest heat setting and leave in the dryer until completely dry.
Visit the CDC’s website for more information on masks:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2021. Your Guide to Masks. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/about-face-coverings.html
Stieg, C. 2021. Dr. Fauci: Double-masking makes ‘common sense’ and is likely more effective. Retrieved from https://www.cnbc.com/2021/01/25/dr-fauci-double-mask-during-covid-makes-common-sense-more-effective.html