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It’s important to wear a mask or face covering when in public settings, around new people and when social distancing isn’t possible.
They provide a barrier to individuals who may not know they are infected with COVID-19 and help prevent a person from spreading the virus to others by keeping respiratory droplets (released when someone is talking, singing, coughing or sneezing) contained within the mask.
Masks prevent the droplets from reaching others if 6-feet social distancing cannot be maintained.
Here's how to safely wear them, according to Edward-Elmhurst Health.
Wearing a mask is safe for most people.
Despite concerns that masks can restrict breathing or cause reduced oxygen levels (hypoxia), no current research or evidence supports these claims.
Studies have looked at other pandemics where mask wearing was prevalent, such as the SARS outbreak in China in 2002, and have found no long-term negative effects of wearing masks.
Children under 2, individuals having trouble breathing, or anyone who is unconscious, or cannot remove the mask on their own, should not wear mask.
The CDC offers alternatives to consider for these special considerations to help reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.
Take regular breaks.
Wearing masks for prolonged periods of time can be unpleasant or irritating, especially in warm, humid weather. Take short breaks when the situation allows someone to do so safely. Remember to drink water during breaks to maintain hydration.
Mask removal and mask storage is important.
Wash cloth masks daily, following these guidelines for removal and storage of surgical and cloth masks:
To remove mask with intent to re-use:
Wash hands. Assume the front is contaminated and remove mask slowly and carefully by grasping ear loops or lower ties and then upper ties.
Keep loops or ties from touching interior of mask.
After removing mask, inspect for contamination or any distortions in shape or form. If soiled, torn or saturated, the mask should be discarded.
If the mask is NOT visibly soiled, torn or saturated, carefully place on a clean paper towel or paper bag. Wash hands.
To re-apply used mask:
Wash hands. Grasp mask at the ear loops or upper ties.
Place over face For ear-loop style mask: Secure ear loops behind ears, secure mask.
For tie-back style mask: Secure upper ties first, behind head.
End by securing lower ties behind head.
Protecting skin can ease discomfort.
Skin or lip irritation or dryness can occur with long-term mask wearing. Use the following tips to avoid irritation:
Ensure your face mask is dry before using. Avoid makeup if possible as it can create moisture under the mask. Use a barrier cream like Aquaphor or Cerave to prevent dry skin under the mask.
Wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, washing hands thoroughly, covering coughs and sneezes, avoiding those who are sick and regularly disinfecting surfaces are the best ways to stay healthy and stop both symptomatic and asymptomatic spread.
For updates on COVID-19, visit EEHealth.org/coronavirus.