Masks are the new normal! Masks (and gloves) have become mandatory for everyone, including the general mass, post this whole Covid-19 outbreak.
World Health Organization and ICMR previously stated that, “Mask is to be only used by patients who are confirmed and health care providers or caregivers who are taking care of that patient”, as agreed upon by Prof. Balram Bhargava, Director General, ICMR. But the new guidelines issued says, “Masks can be used either for protection of healthy persons (worn to protect oneself when in contact with an infected individual) or for source control (worn by an infected individual to prevent onward transmission).”
Speaking of masks, there are two broad categories of masks- Medical/surgical masks and Non-medical/Fabric masks. Most of them who are non-infected are using fabric masks.
There are many cases of coronavirus disease that are asymptomatic (without any symptoms), hence, there is a good chance that anyone you run into could potentially have that risk factor and that is the “ugly reality”. There are 6.7 million cases worldwide with a death count nearing 400,000. Wearing a mask in a public space is of no value if you do not wear it correctly.
Following are the five mistakes that we knowingly/unknowingly make, while wearing masks that could prove dangerous for us or the ones that come in contact with us in the near future :
1. Handling of masks even before you wear them
You need to have clean hands even before you touch a mask in order to avoid any pre-contamination. Wash your hands with soap and water, or, clean them with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Inspect the mask beforehand for tears or holes. Do not use damaged/soiled masks, dispose them off immediately.
2. Not covering the entire face
More often than we realize, either the nose, the mouth or the chin remains uncovered. You must make certain that your mask covers the face, that is, nose, mouth and chin, ensuring there are no gaps between the face and the mask. For example, in the case of surgical masks, there is a thin metal strip that ought to be pinched so as to mold it to the shape of your nose.
3. Masks that hang loose
Just as you prefer fitted clothes, wear proper fitted masks that aren’t baggy/loose on the sides. Baggy clothes may make you feel free, but feeling free while wearing a mask is a big NO. It would in turn affect the functionality of the mask itself. I’ll give you a mask mantra for the time being- ‘Tight is right’.
4. Touching and fidgeting with the mask after wearing it
DO NOT touch your mask, especially the front, once you’ve worn it. The mask might contain virus or bacteria and touching anything else after you’ve done the “dreaded deed” would only cause infection, owing to the much obvious droplet transmission. We’re human after all. So in case you did touch the mask accidently, wash/sanitize your hands before touching any other surface, even if that means your face.
5. To dispose or reuse?
Firstly, while taking off a mask, wash/sanitize your hands beforehand. In case of medical/surgical masks, they are always disposable (one time use). Make sure your remove the mask using the ear-straps, and not by touching the front to avoid, any cross-contamination. As you do so lean forward, so that any spread of germs is minimal. Following this, dispose them off in a closed bin. Now, if it’s a fabric mask, it is reusable and/or washable (in any case, it you will know that while purchasing). The process is almost the same, but once you take it off, instantly give it a thorough wash, preferably at a high temperature.
According to Center for Disease Control and Prevention, "reusable cloth face masks and coverings should routinely be washed depending on how often they're worn." They have urged people to use washable face covers to ensure there are enough surgical and N95 masks for medical workers and caregivers.
Try to prevent self-contamination and manipulation of your own mask. Now that you’re done, wash/sanitize your hands once again, at the end. Do not share your mask with anyone.
WHO clearly states that: “The prolonged use of medical masks when properly worn, DOES NOT cause CO2 intoxication or oxygen deficiency. And always look at the bright side because, you can recover from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Catching the new coronavirus DOES NOT mean that you will have it for life.”
A mask alone cannot help you combat covid-19, it must be combined with measures like, social distancing, and regular hand washing/sanitizing, eating healthy and improving your immune system.