The 10 most common mistakes when using Protective Masks

In accordance with the basic law of civil protection, on May 3, our country changed from a state of emergency to a calamity situation. This change is accompanied by a decontamination plan that will be implemented on 3 dates (May 04, May 18 and June 01).

These phases correspond to an increasing deconfinement, which will result in the opening of an increasing number of services and spaces.

However, the hygiene, safety and containment measures that we have known and applied until now must and must continue to be put into practice in order to avoid an increase in the transmission of the new coronavirus. One of these protective measures is the use of masks, and this is what we are going to talk about.

Mistakes in the use of masks: what not to do

According to the general measures of the decontamination plan, since May 4, the wearing of masks is mandatory in public transport, schools, shops and other closed places with several people.

This means that we all have to get used to using this accessory, putting it on and taking it off in the most correct way, so that it is safe and effective for us and for others.

Whether we are talking about surgical masks or community masks, the way of putting on and taking off masks is similar and must be strictly followed, in order to really protect ourselves from possible contamination by the new coronavirus.

While at first glance, putting on and taking off a mask may seem like an easy task, this is not quite the case when you consider that the mask may be contaminated with the new coronavirus.

So pay attention to the mistakes you really should avoid and understand how to use the protective mask correctly.

1. Wear the mask covering only the mouth

A mask that covers only the mouth is not effective, as it does not protect you or others, since the nose is also a possible channel for viral particles to enter and exit. Also, touching the mask with your nose can be a means of contamination if the mask contains germs or other droplets.


2. Allow the mask to come in contact with other body parts or objects.

Basically, if the inside of the mask (which will be in contact with our nose and mouth) touches an area of our body that is contaminated with the virus (such as hair, forehead, chin, neck, hands,…), it means that the inside of the mask will bring viral droplets to our nose and mouth, thus potentiating the infection.

Therefore, wearing a mask hung around the neck or attached to the chin (even for a short time) is not safe.


3. Having a mask that is too large

Regardless of the type of mask (surgical or community), it should not be too large to make it difficult for bacteria and germs to enter through the side gaps or even the nose area.

So it should not be tight, but it should also not be loose enough to slip or fall off. It should be comfortable, without underestimating safety issues.


4. Cover only the tip of the nose with the mask.

As mentioned earlier, it is important that the mask covers not only the mouth but also a significant portion of the nose (not just the tip). It must cover the nose rod itself, otherwise it will let in air, impurities and viral droplets.


5. Do not cover the chin

For more effective protection and better fixation of the mask on the face, it should end at the chin, forming a kind of adjustment zone, avoiding the gaps that allow droplets to penetrate.


6. Do not clean the reusable mask

Just because a mask is reusable doesn’t mean you shouldn’t sanitize it properly and regularly.

Cloth masks can be machine washed (preferably at 60°C) or washed in a basin with boiling water and a little detergent or soap.

However, it is safest to always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for each type of mask.


7. Do not place the mask on undecontaminated surfaces.

When brushing your teeth, drinking water, or eating, it is natural to have to remove your mask and put it down somewhere.

Ideally, however, you should always have a properly sterilized carrying bag with you to put it in. Otherwise, you should always put it down or store it on a surface that you are sure has been properly disinfected.


8. Not changing your mask often enough

Depending on the moisture content of the inner area of the mask, this accessory should be changed after 2 to 6 hours of use. So, for example, if you have to face a day’s work wearing a mask, you should consider using 2 to 4 masks.


9. Touch the outside of the mask with your hands.

One of the most serious, yet common mistakes is touching the outside of the mask with your hands, and it’s easy to see why this is a serious mistake. If the outside of the mask is contaminated, touching it will immediately contaminate our hands as well.

From there, the process of contagion becomes much more likely for us and for others.


10. Not putting on or taking off the mask properly

Failing to wash hands before and after putting on and taking off the mask are some of the common mistakes made when putting on and taking off the mask.

In addition, swapping the inner side for the outer side is also a regular mistake that should be avoided.

Finally, although surgical and community masks are donned in the same manner, their purpose should be distinct. Indeed, while the former are disposable, the latter can be washable. But we will discuss this in more detail below.

How to put on and remove the mask correctly

After highlighting the errors in putting on, handling and removing the mask, it is important to explain how this whole process, which for many has become a daily routine, should be done. It is important to remember that, according to the World Health Organization, wearing a mask incorrectly can pose more health risks than not wearing it at all.

To keep it safe, protective and effective from the moment you put it on to the moment you take it off, you should follow these steps:

  1. Wash your hands thoroughly before putting on the mask.
  2. Place the white (inner) side of the mask facing the face and fit snugly, covering the mouth and nose, adjusting the mask above the level of the nasal bones and below the chin.
  3. When you want to remove yourself, you must again wash your hands thoroughly.
  4. Remove the mask, holding only the elastic bands.
  5. Discard the mask (if disposable) or wash it (if reusable).
  6. Finish by washing your hands again.

Notice: According to the Health Branch, masks can create a false sense of security in those who wear them. That is, there are people who, by wearing a mask, do not respect social distancing, for example, which is a mistake that should be avoided as much as possible.

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