Masks are an important part of slowing the spread of COVID-19. We’ve known for some time that masks stop the immediate spread of particles created by breathing, coughing, or sneezing, and the US CDC recently updated it’s webpage to acknowledge that respiratory particles may remain in the air longer than a few minutes.
Though masks may offer you limited protection, their primary purpose is to keep other people safe. That means that the more people who wear masks, the more effective masks are at stopping the spread of the disease.
What makes a good non-medical mask?
The best materials for non-medical masks include at least two layers of tightly-woven fabric. They should provide a relatively snug fit over your mouth and nose, and ideally under your chin to catch the most droplets.
You can test how effective your mask is with a candle or a lighter. A good mask should make it difficult to blow out the lighter.
How do I make the most of my mask?
Health Canada offers these guidelines for wearing and handling non-medical masks:
- Wear your mask over your mouth and nose.
- Inspect your mask for rips and holes regularly.
- Handle your mask by the ear loops, and avoid touching the surface with unclean hands.
- Wash your re-usable mask in warm, soapy water regularly.
- Keep a paper bag or ziploc handy to store your mask when not in use.
- Don’t wear your mask loosely.
- Don’t remove your mask to talk to someone.
- Don’t share your mask
- Don’t leave your mask hanging off of an ear or your neck.
I have a hard time wearing a mask. What can I do?
Breathe through your nose. We often instinctively breathe through our mouths when something is put over our face. However, this is a fight-or-flight response, and can lead to feelings of panic and anxiety. Try to consciously remember to breathe through your nose. It will smell a lot better, too.
You may need a different mask. Try a variety of cuts and materials that still meet the basic requirements for a mask. The best masks are light and resist moisture build-up inside.
You can also buy a plastic bracket that creates a bit of room between your mouth, making even the most uncomfortable masks a bit easier to breathe in. Check out a few options in this article: 7 Face Brackets To Make Your Mask More Comfortable!
If your glasses fog up a lot while wearing a mask, try anti-fog wipes like these ones from Smith Optics. They use a hydrophobic coating to stop glasses from fogging up once applied. They work great, and they’re especially handy in the winter, pandemic or not!
Neckwarmers may not be enough.
Research-wise, the jury is out whether neckwarmers are an effective mask. It will also be up to businesses and service providers to decide whether they will allow neckwarmers to substitute for masks during the winter.
The safest bet is to carry a dedicated mask to use indoors!
Masks are just one part of staying safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Remember to distance yourself physically, avoid travel if possible, and stay home if you’re sick. Check out our basic guidelines article for more information!
Read more about non-medical masks at this link from Health Canada: Safely Using A Non-Medical Mask