The year 2020 has looked like no other. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced change across the entire world, and one of the biggest changes in the way we interact with our environment and those in it. The wearing of masks has been mandated throughout the world, and today we are going to discuss how to select the correct design, fitting your mask properly, and keeping it clean and effective.

Benefits of Wearing a Mask

At the beginning of the pandemic, there was confusion about the importance and benefits of wearing a mask given the conflicting messages received from trusted health departments. Most recently, health experts have said the evidence is clear and masks reduce the spread of viral droplets, protecting many. Did you know that 20 to 500 micrometers of droplets are generated when saying a simple phrase? When wearing a mask, nearly all of these droplets can be blocked! Additionally, there is a psychological advantage of reduced anxiety about the virus when wearing a mask.

Different Materials and Options

Many studies have investigated various mask materials, but most masks today come in two distinct forms: fabric or medical quality. A mask that fully covers the mouth and nose is crucial for safety and, in the end, the most important item to consider is comfort.
The most common type of mask, fabric, is usually made from a kind of breathable material, likely from 100% cotton or a blend of synthetics and cotton. For these types of masks, the CDC recommends that they have 2 or more layers of washable, breathable fabric, directly reducing the spread of COVID-19. These often loop behind the ears, but need to be sized well to fit properly. It’s designed to be worn throughout the day and can be used again and again with proper care.

The other type of mask found in use today is the general surgical mask. It is often made out of unique paper and is designed to be used one time only. It’s best for medical workers, those infected with COVID-19, and those caring for those infected. If social distancing is difficult, these can also help those over age 60 or those with underlying health issues. They are designed specifically for one-time use and should be thrown away immediately afterward.

Caring for Your Masks

It is extremely important that you handle your masks with care, no matter which type you choose. The long term effectiveness and your overall health depends on your ability to have good mask hygiene. Paper masks need to be thrown away after each use, taking care to handle them by their loops. Always wash your hands thoroughly with hot soapy water for 20 seconds or longer to reduce the chances of transmission after handling your mask.

Masks made of fabric need to be removed by handling only the loops or ties, carefully avoiding contact with any outside surface areas. Put your mask in with your other laundry, set for the highest appropriate setting, such as towels or sheets. Dry it at the highest setting possible, or allow lay it in the sun for a full day. You may also hand wash your mask, following the same concept. Use hot water and a small amount of laundry detergent and scrub gently, followed by a good rinse and dry as suggested above.

The best mask for you is the one that you consistently wear correctly to protect you and those around you. Whether you choose a multi-use fabric mask or a one-time medical mask, be sure to use it as intended. When everyone does their part and wears their mask, we can beat COVID-19 and create a healthier world for all.

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