Get the Facts on Wearing Masks: Why, When, How and Who
Zoe Stallings, MD, answers the why, when, how and who of wearing masks correctly in this week's 2 Your Well-Being Discussion with WFMY News 2.
Why are masks so very important?
“Masks are important because they help to prevent us from inhaling droplets. [COVID-19] is a respiratory infection. It is spread through coughing, sneezing, talking – and so it's really important that we protect our airways. This is a virus that we cannot see. It's easier to fight something that we can see and identify who has it. But this is something that people often don't show symptoms of. So in order to protect ourselves and those that we love, it's best to just cover the avenues through which we would spread this virus – your mouth and nose.”
When should we wear a mask?
“If you're in the car by yourself, take the mask off enjoy the fresh air. But when you're around others, use your mask. Talking sprays saliva. It sprays droplets. People often sneeze. Even when we're in a group setting to eat lunch, that is a time in which you are still exposed. So keep your mask on and then limit your contact with other people.”
How should we wear a mask?
“You want to cover your nose and mouth, loop it behind your ear… if your nose is uncovered, that's incorrect. If you have it and it's half-way on [hanging off one ear], which I see all the time, also incorrect. You really want to focus on keeping the nose and mouth covered.
“The loop behind your ear is so that you don't touch your mask. People will pull their masks from the front – that's inappropriate as well. You've just contaminated your hands. So, just reach behind your ear to pull it off.
“Another mistake people make is they will throw it in their pocket, then take it out and put it back on. You have now soiled the inside and the outside of the mask, and now you're putting it back on your face. So, just put it in a bag when you're finished wearing it, and then wash it when you get home.”
How often do we need to wash the mask if it is cloth or discard it if it's a paper mask?
“If it's a paper mask, here at our clinic, we discard it after three days, because at that point, it starts to break down and you don't get a good seal. In general, I advise people after you've worn your mask for the day, just throw it in the washing machine or hand wash it and dry it on high heat. Cloth masks trap a lot of moisture and they're very easy to just dry, but just go ahead and wash them and dry them after each time you wear it and you come back home. They're selling them now in a much more affordable way, and people are making their own at home. That makes it more accessible for us to all have a mask… If you drop it on the floor, it's now on the floor – get another one.”
Who should be wearing a mask?
“I personally would like to see anybody who's able-bodied to follow the instructions to wear a mask. So small children might have a hard time wearing the mask and keeping it on if they can't follow instructions, but if you're old enough to follow instructions and can do multiple step directions, you can wear a mask. So everyone should wear a mask.
“There are some people who will ask and say, ‘I have a respiratory issue. I have a breathing problem. I get claustrophobic,’ and I also say to them, if you end up with coronavirus and you end up intubated in the ICU, then you're still in a mask, so at least wear a mask that's tolerable. So we recommend that everyone wear their mask unless they are a small child, or unless they have some device with which they can't cover their face.”