Why you still need to wear a face mask (and how to wear it properly)

As some aspects of life begin to return to normal — or at least a new normal — it may be tempting to ease up on precautions and preventive steps.

But remember that COVID-19 safety measures, including wearing a face mask, are still as important as ever. 

While most people know how to wash their hands and how to practice physical distancing, picking the right mask and using it properly may feel like a more overwhelming task. Here are some tips to help you mask more effectively.

Remember why you’re wearing a mask.

Wearing a mask is an essential part of curtailing this pandemic. You may be growing weary of wearing a mask every time you leave your home but when you wear it, you do your part in helping overcome the virus. Not wearing a mask only puts your life and the lives of those around you at risk. 

Studies suggest almost half of people have been infected by someone who isn’t even showing symptoms yet. You may feel healthy and think likewise about those around you, but don’t let that lull you into complacency!

Related: Coronavirus myths unraveled

Be sure to wear your mask correctly. 

For your mask to provide the proper protection, it must cover your mouth and nose. Make sure your mask fits over both your mouth and nose, and watch out for your friends and loved ones to make sure their masks fit properly.  

Wear a mask that layers multiple materials. 

Your mask should either be a cloth mask with an inserted filter material (think cotton quilting batting) or a mask that layers multiple different kinds of fabric. When different types of fabric are layered together in a mask (such as cotton and silk or cotton and flannel), electrostatic forces are created that can trap viral particles even when the fibers of the mask are technically large enough that viral particles could pass through. It is electrostatic forces in much thinner surgical masks that actually give those masks such remarkable efficiency.  

Make sure your mask fits snugly.

If your mask does not seal tightly to your face, cut a tube of stocking from a pair of hose and wear this over your mask to improve fit and diminish air leak around your mask. This can markedly increase the effectiveness of your mask.

Wash your hands.

After you take off your mask, wash your hands immediately with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water aren’t available, use a hand sanitizer containing at least 65% alcohol. Masking without handwashing is pointless — the two should go hand in hand.

Related: Baylor Scott & White launches COVID-19 Safe Care

What else can you do to promote mask use?

Lead by example through your actions. Speak to your friends and family about the importance of wearing masks, washing your hands frequently and social distancing to help prevent a resurgence of COVID-19 cases. 

Remind your loved ones that wearing a mask is one of the simplest kindnesses one can perform right now as a member of society. Now more than ever, we are all depending on each other to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe. We must all do unto others as we would have them do unto us.

About the author

Lauren Fine, MD

Lauren Fine, MD, is an emergency medicine physician at Baylor University Medical Center.

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Why you still need to wear a face mask (and how to wear it properly)