Face Masks - help and advice
Aug. 29, 2021
FACE MASKS – help and advice
Although being fully vaccinated greatly reduces your chance of catching or spreading the coronavirus, it doesn't eliminate it entirely. If you are infected with the coronavirus and do not know it, a mask is very good at keeping your aerosol of the virus to yourself. Wearing a mask is a public service to others, not just about protecting yourself. This is more so now that we know COVID 19 is aerosol spread rather than droplet spread. It can spread much further than we thought, from a cough, sneeze, shout, or even singing. Social distancing of 2 meters is not sufficient, we probably need a far less practical 10m, which is not possible in supermarkets or medical centres. If you haven't yet received your COVID-19 vaccine, wearing a mask can also help prevent the virus that has come from another person's respiratory aerosol from getting into your nose and mouth.
Anytime you are wearing a mask, make sure:
- It is worn consistently and appropriately. A mask that is frequently pulled down to breathe or talk, or is worn under the nose, is not effective.
- The mask conforms to your face without gaps — it is important that most of the air you breathe in and out flows through the mask rather than around the mask through gaps at the sides, top or bottom.
- It is made from several layers of tightly-woven fabric to be an effective filter.
- The mask has a flexible nose bridge to conform to the face and prevent fogging of eyeglasses.
- It stays in place during talking and moving, so it can be worn without slipping and so it does not require you to touch it frequently.
- The mask is comfortable enough to wear without adjusting it for the time you need to keep it on.
Following current mask-wearing guidelines is still important as we race to stop viral transmission and get everyone vaccinated before more variants of the virus emerge and threaten the progress we have made.
Any mask is better than no mask, with one exception. The Centre of Disease Control in the US cautions people not to wear masks with built-in valves or vents. Bandanas and scarves do not offer much protection at all. The thicker the cloth masks the better, but a disposable surgical mask will be the best option. N95s are good for health care professionals who are encountering COVID 19, especially if they have been fit tested properly.
When it comes to bad mask-wearing, we have seen it all. There are more masks worn badly out there than masks worn well. Your mask needs to cover your nose and mouth and fit snuggly as possible, if there are big gaps the virus can escape. Please have a look at the Ineffective Face Mask Bingo picture and make sure your schnoz is not hanging out, or that you are not one of the many other types of ineffective wearers.
Overcoming mask anxiety
We know that some people get anxious about wearing masks – this can be overcome.
- 1. Take 5 QUALITY breaths before putting the mask on. A quality breath is a 4 second inhale through the nose, a 2-second pause, and then a 6 second exhale through the mouth.
- 2. Gradual practice helps. Practice wearing your mask at home, gradually increasing the time you wear it. Remind yourself "You are safe. You are breathing."
- 3. Take breaks. Find spaces and times when you can be mask-free.
- 4. Find the right mask, one that feels comfortable and fits nicely.
- 5. Focus on your reason for wearing a mask. You are doing something for the greater good of the community which is great motivation. No one is 100% comfortable.
- 6. Remember wearing a mask does not reduce your oxygen level.
- It is very important not to touch your mask. Consider it as dirty and potentially covered in viruses. Do not fiddle with it whilst you are wearing it.
- As soon as you no longer need your mask to take it off, by the straps, pop it straight into the bin if it is disposable, or into a container to wash if it is a cloth mask. Then wash or sanitize your hands.
- Cloth masks need washing after every use.
Children and Masks
So far, the advice has been that children, 12 years and under, do not have to wear a mask. However, with the Delta variant, we know it does affect children and is often spread by them. If your child can wear a mask, then it is a good idea. Until we can vaccinate under 12 year olds, a face mask, social distancing and hand hygeine are all we have to keep children safe.