Wearing a face mask while traveling or moving out of the house is one of the simple ways to prevent the transmission of viruses and save millions of lives. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, wearing a face mask in public places has been shown to reduce the spread of COVID-19 because those who are pre-symptomatic can spread the virus before showing symptoms.
However, some masks are more effective than others, but one must not forget that it’s not just the use of a mask that is important, but it’s equally important to use it properly. Moreover, as per WHO, a mask should be a part of a comprehensive strategy of measures to suppress transmission and save lives. You should also maintain a minimum physical distance of at least 1 meter from others, frequently clean your hands and avoid touching your face and mask.
While washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and keep a sanitizer handy while moving out can’t be underestimated. Mostly all the masks are disposable and are made for one-time use only. Ideally, if your face mask is soiled or if the inner lining gets moist, then it is wise to dispose of the mask immediately. Face masks can rarely be sterilized for limited reuse. It is also essential to follow the correct method of removal of the face mask. People today have three broad categories for purchasing masks – Cloth mask, Surgical mask & N95 respirators. No matter which type of mask you are wearing, the steps to wear masks remain the same.
Steps to wear mask correctly
- Wash your hands before touching the mask.
- Ensure the mask covers your mouth, nose and chin.
- Don’t touch the mask when removing it.
- Dispose of the mask and wash hands.
Depending on the types of face mask that one is using, its reuse will vary.
People prefer to buy cloth mask as they feel it can be reused after washing and drying it in sunlight. According to a research homemade cloth mask should be the last resort to prevent any transmission from infected individuals. With constant washing, the quality of cloth gets hampered, which in turn increases the risk even more. Not to mention that by not disposing of after single-use, you are inviting trouble or infection in your house. There is a tendency to being lethargic to wash the mask, and keeping the mask on any surface may end up in the spreading of infection. The big question here is that is it worth to save pennies, especially when yours and your family members life is at stake? One should give a serious consideration while purchasing and take efforts to invest in a good quality mask.
It is advised to dispose of a surgical face mask once it has been used for eight continuous hours. It is said that single dry heat sterilization (70 degrees Celsius heating for 30 minutes) can effectively inactivate the virus without affecting the protective function of the mask. However, it is uncertain how several times of disinfection affects the protective effect of the mask. Thus, it is advisable to strictly dispose of the mask after one-time use or once it catches moisture or gets soiled.
Studies have shown that respirators can function within their design specifications for 8 hours of continuous or intermittent use. Following the guidelines provided by the manufacturer can help in reusing the mask for maximum up to 5 times. These guidelines suggest the mask can be reused through UV treatment, autoclaving, mask rotation, dry heating, etc. Is it possible to follow such methods in a typical household?
Hence, we must ensure to dispose of the mask after one-time use and prevent the spread of infection to ourselves as well as to our loved ones.
There are areas in our body like the nose and mouth where viruses can enter quickly; hence wearing a face mask is imperative. But sometimes, due to the itchy nose, tired eyes, or sweating, one tends to touch their face mask.
This constant urge to touch the face mask can significantly increase the risk of infection with flu or cold viruses. Moreover, the odds of recontaminating our hands between washing also increase. Don’t worry! It is a habit which you can break. Just stay alert and be mindful about keeping your hands away from your face.
Dispose of your face mask with caution !
Lack of awareness on the correct disposal of the face mask will not only increase the risk of spreading the infection but also adversely impacts the environment. Various environmental studies have found thousands of used masks which is threatening wildlife habitats and marine life.
Hence, follow below mentioned simple and useful tips to dispose of the used mask to keep all viruses and germs at bay.
- Avoid touching the mask on the front side.
- Remove Mask from behind from ear loop.
- Discard in a closed bin.
- Wash your hands for a minimum of 20 seconds with soap or sanitizer.
Always follow the correct process of mask disposal. Otherwise, the virus could survive on the mask for a long tie and can pose a potential risk to the health of people who come in contact with it. Improper disposal of face mask can also be one of the potential threats for the spread of infection.
Let’s pledge to wear, use and dispose of mask properly so that it not only prevents the spread of viruses but also keep the environment clean and healthy for future generations.
- Davies, A., Thompson, K. A., Giri, K., Kafatos, G., Walker, J., & Bennett, A. (2013). Testing the efficacy of homemade masks: would they protect in an influenza pandemic?. Disaster medicine and public health preparedness, 7(4), 413-418.
- Santarsiero, A., Ciambelli, P., Donsì, G., Quadrini, F., Briancesco, R., D’Alessandro, D., & Fara, G. M. (2020). Face masks. Technical, technological and functional characteristics and hygienic-sanitary aspects related to the use of filtering mask in the community. Annali di igiene : medicina preventiva e di comunita, 32(5). https://doi.org/10.7416/ai.2020.2371
- Yu Taishan, He Yufang, et al. Labor safety and health research quarterly 0106 (2008)
- Aragaw, T. A. (2020). Surgical face masks as a potential source for microplastic pollution in the COVID-19 scenario. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 111517.
- Fadare, O. O., & Okoffo, E. D. (2020). Covid-19 face masks: A potential source of microplastic fibers in the environment. The Science of the total environment, 737, 140279.