Tips for wearing a face mask

Tips for wearing a face mask

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to recommend wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. And now both Illinois and Wisconsin require wearing masks in public indoor spaces.

Wearing a mask helps slow the spread of COVID-19, and the more people who wear them, the better it works. Anyone who is over the age of two and medically able to tolerate a face-covering should cover their nose and mouth.

While many have already been wearing a mask, it’s important to do it right. Dr. Kamo Sidhwa, infectious disease specialist at Advocate South Suburban Hospital suggests taking the following actions to ensure your safety:

  • Masks should be washed daily with regular detergent or soap after initial use.
  • It may need to be washed by hand or in the gentle cycle of the washing machine if made of delicate material. It may be also be worthwhile to have a few masks available while you are cleaning.
  • If elastic is in the mask, it needs to be checked to make sure it has not lost its elasticity and remains secure and fitted when wearing.
  • Once your mask is visibly soiled or damaged, you should discard it and start using a new one.
  • Be careful when removing dirty masks to ensure you aren’t touching your face until after you wash your hands.

Safe masking is an important step we can take in helping prevent the spread of COVID-19, but Dr. Sidhwa also reminds us that masks does not take the place of social distancing.

“The point of these coverings is to lessen the chance that a potentially asymptomatic infected individual may spread their infection to others,” says Dr. Sidhwa. “Distancing is still the most important thing we can do to decrease overall spread.”

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  1. Peter WERNER, M.D. May 1, 2020 at 11:42 am · Reply

    Try NOT to touch the Outside of the Mask, when removing it, since it may have Viral Particles sitting on the Outside Surface of the Mask!!!
    Hand washing: use a Soap which ‘foams a Lot’ , supposedly the Most assured Way to remove ‘Particulate Matter’ from the Surface of the Hands.

    • LESLIE APFELBECK May 20, 2020 at 8:49 am · Reply

      Thanks for the tip re: foaming soap – we use a (Method brand) gel soap, but they do make a foaming soap; we thought since it’s more water, it might not be as good as the gel – which is all soap.

  2. I would love to see more public messaging – including simple graphics – about how to appropriately wear a face mask / face covering for the general public – I see a lot of people wearing them just covering their mouths, but their noses are still exposed; or, people wearing them but then lowering them to talk to someone. Both habits defeat the purpose of the mask! Please help spread the word about how to wear them correctly! Thanks.

  3. I would love information on how to breath well with them Or tricks to make it easier. Twice while wearing them I have gotten lightheaded and on the verge of passing out. I’m theorizing that I am breathing in my own carbon dioxide. I’ve ended up having to remove it while in the store since I figured passing out would cause far more of a panic. Luckily it was at times when there were not many people in the store and distance was very simple to maintain.

    • I have been in similar positions as this as well. I’m a rape survivor and the PTSD that came with it does not allow me to wear a mask very long. I’ve tried multiple types of masks and every time It puts me into a panic attack or lightheaded feeling and makes it unbearable to get through a grocery shopping experience. If social distancing works, then why wear a mask. If other’s masks work, then why is it not a choice to wear one or not?

      • The masks protect both people. It cannot just be one person wearing the mask and social distancing. You are breathing out possibly viral particles onto clothes and other surfaces which the other person of persons around you can touch. Droplets become airborne when we speak, breath out through our mouths and cough or sneeze. The droplets don’t get through the mask that is why you shouldn’t touch the outside of the mask. The masks are not a waste of time please wear it and be mindful of the people around you.

  4. I put on and take off by using the elastic on the sides. I try not to touch mask it self, and always put it down on a clean surface or paper towel

  5. regarding how to breath well in a surgical type mask, if after first applying the mask you roll/ flip up the bottom on time it is just enough to allow enough space away from your chin to allow your air out so you don’t over heat. We are trying to be safe and are not in aa sterile procedure. I learned this while assisting in procedures, suggested by a physician. Also learning t breath solely from your nose will help. That’s very hard for all the mouth breathers in the world. Start by blowing your nose often and clean your own natural filter and train yourself when not wearing the mask. Good Luck, Stay safe, don’t forget good hand washing.

  6. Where are people buying masks? I continue to search when I am out but can’t find any (or disinfectant wipes). I sewed my own by hand (took 2 hours to do) but my hair gets all tangled up when I tie it on.

  7. Adjora F Stevens May 5, 2020 at 8:59 am · Reply

    I’ve bought masks online (from China), from my hairstylist, and from a friend who is a clothing designer who sells online.

  8. I wear glasses and found I have a problem with them fogging up when I wear a mask. I’ve tried a few tricks recommended by nurses I know, but nothing seems to work. So, I either take my glasses off or walk around in a “fog”. Any suggestions? Thanks.

    • Donna Daufenbach May 13, 2020 at 8:34 am · Reply

      A thin strip of double stick tape across the center of the upper edge can adhere it to your skin from your nose to the middle of your cheek. Or you can apply a thin strip of plastic using the double stick tape. A thin plastic like a sandwich baggie works well. The mask should also have a thin metal strip on the exterior to help mold it around your nose.

  9. Walgreens on 107 Cicero have surgical masks.
    Go to the camera section they also have disinfected.,Tuesday’s and Fridays they usually restock. Stay safe. God Bless

  10. Gloria Picchetti June 24, 2020 at 12:17 pm · Reply

    Many of the cleaners have masks for sale ranging from $10 to $5.
    It worked out sort of nicely. They lost lots of business since no one was cleaning their clothes during stay at home. Then all of a sudden they had a way to make some of their losses back.

  11. I think hand washing with soap (not necessarily anti-bacterial soap) is the best. The soap dislodges the bacteria or virus from your skin and then water washes them away. This is why hand washing is still better than hand sanitizers.

  12. Mask are worn to protect those around you and prevent the spread of the virus, which is of course good. However, why can’t a mask be developed that protects the person wearing it?
    Better still a mask that does both. People would more readily would wear a mask that also protects them too! Can someone tell me
    why this isn’t possible or if it is then why aren’t these mask being made and offered to
    the public.

  13. How about people like me who must wear hearing aides. $400 if you misplace one.

  14. Here is what I think I know from reading a lot. A tight fitting N95 or KN95 mask protects the wearer and protects others by stopping 2-5% aerosol and droplet particles. Readily available blue/whiteoven cloth masks and 3 layer disposable surgical/medical/non medical masks stop all but 15 -20% but are easier to breath especially during exercising. The uniformed “woven” cloth material makes it easier for particulates to pass. I have added a no woven double folded coffee filter to the mask and I think I get closer to the best of both. Would welcome some technical response? thx

  15. Varsha Gharpure August 3, 2020 at 11:22 am · Reply

    We need to increase awareness even among healthcare providers as I see them touching outside of the mask, frequent adjustments and leaving them on the table in break rooms while eating food.

  16. Hi,

    Can we discuss the size variance in COVID-19? I’ve read it can range anywhere from .04 -.14 microns. Which if that is correct, the size of the virus means it will slip through all known masks that use a weave and filter. The N95 can filter particles from .1-.3 microns most efficiently. I’ve seen a new invention that using silicone rubber to seal around the face with a replaceable filter, and UV-C for inhalational and exhalation. I would argue that UV-C is likely the only way to kill the virus . The website for the mask did not specify how long the air would be in the chamber with UV-C exposure. As it should be noted, UV-C needs a determined amount of time to breakdown each living organism. In short, masks do not appear to be the answer for a virus that has less than +/-2% death rate globally. The reason for the +/-, the data we seem to collect doesn’t appear to be very honest.

  17. Regarding the person who flips the mask up on their chin to let the air out…..That is defeating the purpose of the mask. The air should be going in and out through the mask, not above, below or around it.

    • Stacy- A typical surgical mask is not air tight. Simple fluid dynamics means the majority of your inhale and exhale is exiting the mask space through holes from around the mask. You are not getting “filtered” air with a surgical mask or most home made cloth masks. These masks are meant to stop droplet transmissions between people.

      This is of course assuming covid is majority droplet transmission and not truly airborne. Because if it is truly airborne, then these types of masks are a waste of time and resources.

      • The masks do help. You shouldn’t touch the outside of the mask because it could have viral particles on it. It is airborne because when we breath we exhale droplets. This is why when it is cold you exhale and the droplets start to freeze mid-air. It is also why you should cover your mouth when you sneeze of cough. You create the airborne particles by doing these things. If you are wearing a mask it keeps them inside and if you do happen to be not wearing a mask the six foot distance helps to reduce the chances of the particles reaching the other person. This is why both people in a setting need to wear a mask and social distance. Also, when exhaling droplets they can rest on surfaces which also can create problems because the viral particles can live on surfaces for various period of time depending on the material the surface is made out of. They are not a waste of time or resources, the people who do not wear them and contract covid because of it are wasting time and resources that can be directed elsewhere.

  18. I have COPD so breathing is very challenging under a mask – any mask, I have tried different masks thinking it would help but no success. I usually end of pulling mask away from face periodically which defeats the purpose but gasping for air is the outcome if I don’t pull away the mask. This situation has kept me home bound to stay safe. Any suggestions that I haven’t tried. Oh, I have an N 95 mask my primary doctor gave me.

About the Author

Marrison Worthington
Marrison Worthington

Marrison Worthington, health enews contributor, is a public affairs and marketing manager at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Illinois. She is a graduate of Illinois State University and has several years of global corporate communications experience under her belt. Marrison loves spending her free time traveling, reading organizational development blogs, trying new cooking recipes, and playing with her golden retriever, Ari.