Wearing a mask has become a part of daily life for Canadian adults and kids alike, but there’s a lot of room for error when it comes to wearing, storing and washing them properly.
Here’s what you need to know to make sure you and your loved ones are protected and protecting others optimally:
1. There’s only one correct way to wear a mask.
Your mask must cover your mouth and nose. Don’t pull your mask down and keep it under your chin when moving between indoor and outdoor spaces. “That is probably the worst thing you could do with the mask,” Dr. Zain Chagla, a professor and infectious disease specialist at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario told CBC News. When you wear your mask around your chin, droplets or germs on the outside of the mask can spread to your chin and lower lip and easily enter your body.
2. Hold the mask by its ear loops.
Touching the mask portion may contaminate your hands, so handling the mask by its ear loops is the safest way to put it on and take it off. Always wash or sanitize your hands before and after handling your mask.
Watch our short video to learn how to safely wear and take off a face mask.
3. Store your face mask in a paper bag or envelope.
Your mask must be properly removed and stored when you’re not wearing it. The best place to store it throughout the day when you are not using it is in a paper bag or envelope. Plastic bags should not be used as they can retain moisture and may promote bacteria growth. In low risk places, it’s OK to keep your mask in your pocket when not in use, but paper storage is ideal.
4. Clean and reuse your mask properly.
The best mask for non-medical use is a re-usable and machine washable cloth mask that gets replaced daily, or twice daily if you or your child will be wearing it for most of the day (in those cases, you would ideally switch to a clean mask at lunch time). Cloth masks may also be hand washed with room temperature water and bleach, soaked for five minutes and rinsed thoroughly — just make sure the mask is completely dry before using it again. Cloth masks are widely available at online retailers and dollar stores, or you can try making simple ones at home.
Disposable masks may be reused if they have been worn in an area with a low prevalence of COVID-19, and kept in a paper bag for three days between uses. Never re-use a soiled disposable mask.
5. Keep your glasses from fogging up.
To prevent your glasses from fogging up while wearing your mask (which may happen more with the colder weather), ensure your mask is snug-fitting to prevent air from escaping behind your lenses. Putting your glasses on after your mask will also help prevent fogging.
6. Avoid cross-contamination with your cell phone.
A 2018 survey found that we use our cell phones up to 52 times per day and that they are 10 times dirtier than a public toilet. Holding a contaminated phone up to your face while wearing a mask may contaminate the mask, so take care to wipe down your phone with 70% iso-propyl alcohol or a disinfectant wipe regularly.
7. Sneeze or cough into your elbow.
Cold and flu season will soon be upon us, so remember to still cough or sneeze into your elbow even while wearing a mask. Masks offer a level of protection to the wearer and more protection to those around the wearer, but they are still porous — meaning that droplets from sneezes and coughs can travel through them.
If you have questions about correct mask use or experience rashes, difficulty breathing or any other concerns related to masking, start a virtual consult with a healthcare professional through Akira by TELUS Health.