Surgical and cloth masks can trap respiratory droplets, but they don’t protect the wearer from getting viruses, including SARS-CoV-2. While they won’t filter out all airborne particles, they help prevent spreading a wearer’s microbes. If you have to use one of these masks, proper handling is needed to avoid contamination and risk of infection. The following guidelines show how to use and treat these coverings correctly:

What to Do First

You should have clean hands before putting on a mask. Use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol, or wash with soap and water beforehand. Examine the coverings for tears, holes or other defects, and make sure that the strings or ear loops work properly. Don’t use the item when it has any of these flaws.

How to Don a Mask

When the mask has ties, hold the upper string, and fasten it below the crown. Secure the lower string near the nape of the neck. Ear loops seem the easiest way to affix a mask because you simply slip one loop at a time over each ear.

If the face covering has a metallic strip, press down on it gently, and mold it to the bridge of the nose. In all cases, handle each protective cover by the loops or ties. You also should not carry it around the neck.

The Wearing Process

While wearing a mask, resist the urge to touch or adjust it. That’s why proper fit is important. When putting it on and during the removal process, touch only the loops or fasteners. You should wash or sanitize hands prior to and after removal. To store the covering between uses, place it inside a zippered plastic bag.

Care Instructions

The surgical masks are disposable, while you can wash home-made fabric ones. You can extend the life of surgical masks by keeping one for every day of the week. Wear each covering for the appropriate day, and then set it aside. If you can, expose it to sunlight for some time.

After seven days, wear it again, and repeat the cycle. It helps to write the day of the week on each surgical mask. Under normal circumstances, wash a cloth cover once a week. If you’ve come in contact with someone who sneezed or coughed near you, wash it as soon as you can. In the case of a surgical mask, dispose of it.

Surgical and homemade cloth masks can help protect the health of those around us. However, you have to treat these items correctly to maximize their protective effects. That’s why you should follow these tips in order to help contain the spread of some pathogens.

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