CLOTH FACE MASKS – INSTRUCTIONS AND LIMITATIONS OF USE
Dr Henley (AKA The Mobile MD) here! Thank you for your mask purchase! I want you to enjoy it, but first, the riot act. As a physician, if I’m going to support mask use by the general public, I need to make sure that you’re using them properly. If you are not, you are not only putting yourself at risk, but causing risk to others. Don’t become overconfident and rely on your mask. It’s like beer. Beer makes you feel invincible too. But we all know what happens with that……”Hold my beer”……. DON’T MAKE ME FIX THAT!!!
Please remember that these are cloth masks and do not provide a fitted seal around the face.
Their main use is to prevent the spread of disease from yourself to others, by way of capturing saliva spray. For those “moist talkers” who “say it and spray it”, this is your best option for reducing spread.
The materials and design are not meant to prevent viral particle inhalation. At best, they can reduce droplet contact with your face, but only when used PROPERLY.
PUTTING THE MASK ON (“DONNING”)
- If you wear glasses, you may want to take them off before putting on your mask, then put them back on when fine tuning the fit
- RULE #1 – WASH YOUR HANDS BEFORE DONNING YOUR MASK
- Ensure the patterned side is facing outwards (if applicable)
- Place the mask over lower half of the face (covering the nose), pinch the nose wire (if included), hook the ear elastics behind your ears.
- Adjust the nose and pull the bottom of the mask to cover your chin.
- If you have an additional mask extender (for reducing tension around the ears) – use this now
- Ensure the mask fits comfortably (and doesn’t fog up your glasses)
*NOW is the time to fiddle with it and adjust the fit, NOT when you are out and about!
MASK ON NOW? WASH YOUR HANDS (AGAIN)
TAKING THE MASK OFF (“DOFFING”)
- RULE #1 – WASH YOUR HANDS BEFORE DOFFING THE MASK
- RULE #2 – DO NOT TOUCH THE MASK (only touch the ear loops/ties)
- Have your receptacle open and ready (bag/box)
- Face downwards over the receptacle
- If you have an extension piece, unhook the elastics.
- If no extension piece, unhook the elastic from the ears
- Hold the elastic hooks and bring the mask downwards, away from the face and place directly into the receptacle
- Close the receptacle
- WASH YOUR HANDS!!
- Launder your mask and dry it in the highest temperatures that the material will tolerate. Spraying with alcohol spray is not as effective as washing (soap and water).
*Did you touch the mask taking it out of the bag or box to put in the laundry? WASH YOUR HANDS. HECK, WASH YOUR HANDS ANYWAY.
THE SUPER IMPORTANT STUFF – LIMITATIONS OF MASK USE
Understand these and you will less likely over-rely on your mask and put yourself at more risk than if you didn’t wear a mask.
- Cloth masks are only suitable for capturing droplets, be it from your mouth or someone else’s.
- When your mask gets wet/damp/moist, it NEEDS to be changed. IT WILL NOT LAST YOU ALL DAY. Wet masks are more likely to capture germs.
*If using masks for work, you will need multiple due to the moisture from your breathing. Masks are not effective when damp (or dirty).
- When your mask gets dirty/contaminated/coughed on/moistly talked on etc. IT NEEDS TO BE CHANGED (this includes after a break or using the toilet)
- Adding filters DO NOT increase the safety effect of a cloth mask. They only work in a sealed mask such as a PROPERLY FITTED respirator. Air will follow the path of least resistance and escape in and out of the sides of the mask
(studies looking at the ideal materials tend to focus on the filtration of the materials themselves, not so much the actual function when being worn as a non-fitted mask)
- Touching your mask to adjust it, pulling it down to talk or pulling it down to expose your nose for some cool air etc. SHOULD NEVER OCCUR – you are taking all of the germs on hands and transferring them to your mask and face and transferring the germs from your mask to your hands and then spreading them on whatever you touch.
Seriously, if you want to stay safe, do it properly. Face masks have limitations and you need to appreciate them so that they can be used EFFECTIVELY and not actually increase risk to yourself or your family/friends/co-workers.
SMART TIPS FOR WHEN YOU ARE OUT AND ABOUT.
- Follow the rules for safe and effective mask use (Don’t make me waste my time writing these instructions and tips, I’m busy and that will just upset me and make me cry).
- If you have long hair, tie it up – it stops it from falling in your face, requiring you to touch it and fix it (trust me on this one).
- Don’t touch your face (another reason why keeping hair up is important)
- Don’t wear gloves – seriously. You are better off “feeling dirty” and washing your hands frequently. Don’t be that person who wears gloves and touches everything with them, then touches their bag and phone and adjusts their mask. Improper glove use is as bad as adjusting a wet mask. *Don’t make me cry. I will cry.
- Clean your phone and don’t touch it when you are out shopping. Don’t be transferring germs from your surrounding surfaces to your phone. If you think of your hands as contaminated, you won’t want to be touching all of your personal possessions.
- Wet wipes and hand sanitizer are helpful to keep your hands clean on the go. Clean up as soon as you get into your vehicle, before you start touching your steering wheel and surroundings.
Got it? Good! This list doesn’t cover everything, but does cover most of the important stuff. Stay safe and keep up with the social distancing. And be a superstar example of good mask use and infection protection!! Look around you and see how many others are getting it wrong.
We are all in this together. WE GOT THIS!!
Dr Samantha Henley MD, CCFP ❤️