Within just a few months, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought a lot of change. But perhaps one of the pivotal changes to the “new normal” we were accustomed to are protective masks.
Here’s what you need to know about face coverings during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Wearing Your Mask
Before we dive in any further, let’s go back to the basics and talk about how you should properly wear a mask, so it protects yourself and others around you. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Your mouth and nose should be fully covered.
- Your mask should fit snugly against the sides of your face, so there are no gaps.
- You shouldn’t have any difficulty breathing while wearing the cloth face covering.
- Your mask should be tied or otherwise secured to prevent slipping.
- You should handle your mask with the straps or strings, and you should avoid touching the front of your mask.
- You should wash or sanitize your hands before putting the mask on and after taking it off.
Type of Mask
There are two types of protective masks depending on how many layers are built in.
3-Layer Cloth Face Mask (recommended by the World Health Organization)
You may be wondering: What does each layer do for me? And what do they do for others?
The outer layer, made of non-absorbent material like polyester or another poly-blend fabric, helps to keep other airborne particles from coming into your mask.
The middle layer, made of synthetic material or fibers like nylon, acts as a filter to help prevent particles from coming in and going out.
Finally, the inside layer, made of absorbent material like cotton, helps to absorb particles coming out.
2-Layer Cloth Face Mask
This is another option for you while shopping for a mask. The type usually includes a filter pocket where the filter is “sandwiched” between the outer and inner layers.
Filters help boost the effectiveness of the mask. Three kinds of filters include:
- HEPA filters
- Carbon filters
- Coffee filters
You can also make your own filter by using a piece of synthetic material like nylon, polyester, acrylic, or spandex.
Regardless of which type of mask you choose, remember to wash it regularly or replace your filter after each use.
What to Avoid
Avoid exhalation valves or vents on the mask because these haven’t been proven to be more effective and pose a risk of increased particles going in and out of your mask. Also avoid neck tubes, neck gaiters, scarves, and bandannas.
Don’t consider a cloth mask to be the end-all-be-all method of reducing the risk of contracting COVID-19. According to the CDC, cloth masks should be used along with other recommended practices like physical distancing, hand washing, and staying at home.
You want a mask that looks good, feels good, and does its job. There are two ways you can test the effectiveness of your mask:
1. Flashlight Test – Shine a flashlight onto your cloth mask. Can the light shine through? If yes, then you need more layers or a different filter.
2. Candle Test – Carefully light a candle. Can you blow it out while wearing your mask? If no, then you’re good to go!
Shape of Mask
The shape of the mask you choose is another factor that can dictate its effectiveness.
Cone style masks, which form to your face, provide the most amount of protection. If this shape isn’t available near you, look for masks with a nose wire to provide a more “snug fit.” You should also check the product dimensions to find the correct size to purchase.
You know what’s more annoying than having to wear a mask? Wearing a mask that fogs up your glasses.
To prevent your vision from being compromised, wear your glasses over your mask. Selecting a mask with a nose wire will provide a more “snug fit” and keep your breaths inside. You can also use a medical adhesive to lightly tape your mask onto your face to further prevent fogging.
Mask Washing 101
Masks should be washed daily or at least in between each use. Machine washing and drying is best and can be washed with other clothing. Here’s what you do:
1. Fill a basin or bucket with hot water, 1-2 tablespoons of detergent or 1 Tide Pod, and your mask(s).
2. Cover the basin or bucket with a lid and shake until the water gets sudsy.
3. Soak your mask for 30 minutes, then drain.
4. Refill the basin or bucket with water to rinse.
5. Rinse the rest of the soap out of your mask with the running water.
6. Lay your mask down flat or hang it up to dry.
We recommend owning multiple masks to rotate and clean, especially if you have in-person classes or are an essential worker.
If we follow these guidelines together, then we will overcome this pandemic together. Let’s each do our part!
– Amy Nelson ’19
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