In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we round up the key takeaways you should know about face mask hygiene in this Hive Life guide.
COVID-19: Should You Wear a Mask?
On March 11, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the COVID-19 outbreak to be a global pandemic. Not long after, experts began revising their stance on masks, stating that the general population could, in fact, benefit from universal mask use – especially given the prevalence of asymptomatic cases.
Dr Michael J. Ryan, the executive director of the WHO, told a news conference that the use of homemade masks or other mouth coverings “may help with an overall comprehensive response to this disease.” While Dr Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, stated that when citizens go out in the public, their faces should be covered, and that they should still practise social distancing as much as possible.
Wearing a mask has become the norm in many leading Asian countries, such as Singapore, where the government sent out masks to every household, Japan, where the Health Ministry distributed 4 million masks to Hokkaido, and Hong Kong, where it has become socially unacceptable not to wear a mask, with many buildings and establishments making it a requirement for you to wear one before you step in. A Hong Kong medicine expert who studied the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) back in the early 2000s, believes that the role of a surgical face mask is essential due to the nature of the coronavirus, which can survive up to 4 hours on copper, twenty-four hours on cardboard, and up to three days on plastic and stainless steel.
As such, you may need to bring a mask with you at times to conform with local measures and make others feel comfortable around you, particularly in crowded areas such as on public transport and crowded walkways. Or if you have any respiratory symptoms, such as fever, cough, or runny nose, then it’s best to wear a face mask so as to avoid transmitting possible infections or viruses to others. But if there’s a choice between wearing a mask outside or staying home, it’s definitely better to stay home.
COVID-19: What Are The Different Types of Face Masks?
1. Surgical Face Mask (Disposable)
The most commonly used one amongst citizens around the world right now, the surgical face mask helps block large-particle droplets and splatters that may contain virus and bacteria. Furthermore, they help in reducing exposure of your saliva secretions to others. These masks are designed with three-layers, each layer carrying an important factor; an outer fluid-repelling layer, a middle layer to cut out the germs and an inner moisture-absorbing layer and is the one citizens worldwide should be wearing.
Price: USD 0.25
2. N95 Respirator (Disposable)
Mainly used by high-risk healthcare workers, the N95 respirator filters at least 95% of flying particles, but is not resistant to oil. Healthcare workers wear it to protect themselves from virus and bacteria whilst treating patients.
Price: USD 2-4
3. Full Face Respirator (Reusable)
This mask is designed for people who face difficulties with breathing in a regular mask. It protects people against gases and vapours and protects the eyes.
Price: Starts at around USD 115 for basic models.
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COVID-19: How to Put on Your Mask?
Alarmingly, it seems that most people don’t know how to properly wear a mask. One study conducted in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina found that less than one in four N95 wearers (24%) were using their mask correctly.
To ensure maximum mask hygiene, here are our tips on how to properly put on and remove a mask:
1. First, be sure you have the right mask size that can be extended to cover your mouth, nose and chin. Determine which side of the mask is the front – it is generally the coloured side.
2. Before putting the mask on, carefully clean your hands with either soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitiser.
3. Hold the mask via the ear loops, making sure there are no gaps between your face and the mask. Place the loops over your ears.
4. Pinch the metal strip of the mask so it blends with the shape of your nose bridge.
5. Avoid touching the face mask once you’ve put it on. If you need to adjust the mask, hand hygiene should be performed both before and after adjusting.
Mask Hygiene: How to Remove Your Mask?
1. Before removing your mask, make sure you have cleaned your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
2. Remove it by holding the ear loops from behind without touching the front of the mask.
3. Wrap it in paper or a tissue
4. Discard instantly in a lidded rubbish bin.
5. Perform hand hygiene routine again.
Most importantly it’s important to remember that the spread of COVID-19 can be easily prevented so long as everyone continues to maintain social distancing and practise basic hygiene.
How to wash your hands to prevent COVID-19:
Regularly wash your hands with soap and water
Scrub for at least 20 seconds, then dry your hands thoroughly. (The WHO recommends washing your hands by singing the full ‘Happy Birthday’ song, twice.) If you don’t have immediate access to soap and water, use a hand sanitiser that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry. Don’t forget your wrists and the backs of your hands.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
Touching your face with unwashed hands could transfer the virus from external surfaces to your body.
Practise physical distancing
Stay indoors and stay away from others as much as you can. When around others, try and maintain a distance of about 6 feet when possible.
This article was last updated on 6 April 2020.