What Common Face Mask Mistakes Do People Make?

By Shreya Gupta +2 more

For more than a year and a half now, we have been living with the perpetual threat of COVID-19. It has changed a lot of things in our daily lives. We have been flooded with advice on how to keep ourselves safe and we’ve often had a hard time separating myth from the fact because so many misconceptions and fake news have been doing the rounds.

But one thing cannot be doubted or questioned – face masks can literally save lives. It was established right at the beginning that the COVID-19 virus spreads through an infected person’s cough, sneeze and even while they exhale or talk and the best way to keep yourself safe is by wearing a mask which will drastically reduce the chances of you contracting the viral disease.

However, months after wearing masks became prevalent, people still make basic face mask mistakes that reduce the effectiveness of the mask and may not help with COVID prevention.

Here are a few things you could be doing wrong.

Face mask mistakes that you could be making unknowingly

1. You are not washing your hands before or after handling the mask

This is one of the most common face mask mistakes and almost all of us made it. You need to wash or sanitize your hands before you wear your mask. If there are viruses on your hand, they will enter through your nose and eyes when you put your mask on. But an alcohol-based sanitizer or a hand wash can kill all pathogens.

Similarly, once you take off a mask, you need to wash your hands because you have just touched a mask that could contain pathogens on the outer surface.

2. You are not washing your new masks (reusable masks)

Another dangerous face mask mistake is not washing your cloth mask with warm water and detergent after you have just purchased it. You might think it’s new, so it must be clean. But actually, it could be a den of germs, viruses and bacteria. Imagine how many people have handled the mask – the people who stitched the mask, the ones who packaged it and if there are weak spots in the packaging, pathogens could’ve entered the packet. For COVID prevention, washing your new fabric masks is mandatory. Remember only washable or reusable masks should be washed. Do not wash the disposable or N95 masks.

3. You are not keeping your mask in a clean place

If you toss your mask onto any surface, be it the couch, car seat or bed, then your mask won’t help with COVID prevention. Keep a clean mesh bag or hooks in your home and car for storing masks as boxes can cause mildew to develop. If you have to take your mask off for eating, slip the mask into a clean space.

4. You’re wearing an unwashed reusable mask

If you are not washing your masks after wearing them, they will not be any good in COVID prevention. When you wear a mask outside, it accumulates not just germs but also dirt and grime. Not washing your reusable cloth masks, may not only give you COVID-19 but also trigger other breathing issues.

5. Using an old mask

We all have our favourite masks that we wear again and again. But one of the most dangerous face mask mistakes you can make is wearing old masks. While old masks seem to have a very breathable fabric, the wearing and thinning of the fabric means it will not create a sturdy boundary between your nose and the viruses. If the elastic band is loose or if the fabric looks frayed, then it is time to dispose off the mask. Read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the usability of masks.

6. You are reusing disposable masks

Medical masks (the popular blue masks with white elastic bands) and N95 masks are meant for one-time use only. Washing the fibre will deform the size of pores and render the mask ineffective in COVID-19 prevention. 

7. You are wearing a mask that does not fit you

Masks come in many shapes and sizes. After a few experiments, you will become familiar with which type of mask fits you the best. If there are any gaps between the mask

and your skin, there is potential for the viruses to enter your body. Also, ill-fitting masks will make you touch your mask and face frequently in order to adjust it. This will increase the chances of infection.

8. You yank your mask down your nose 

This is another very common face mask mistake. People pull the mask down to talk or smoke. Talking with your mask on may muffle your voice a little but tugging it down can pose a risk to your life. And as removing the mask from its place for smoking can cause terrible damage to your health.

Extreme hygiene is required when you handle face masks. Take good care of your masks, in case of reusable masks, wash them, dry them and store them properly. Double masking is a better way if you are not using an N95 mask. It is important to understand the effectiveness of the mask that you are choosing. Always wear a mask when you go out, even if you are fully vaccinated and don’t forget to sanitize your hands.

Disclaimer: The information included at this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult their physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation.

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