Face Mask 101: Cover Up!

There’s a lot to keep track of these days: numbers, stats, rates, counts, curves, precautions (something our cancer patients know all too well!) It seems we have had to, in some twisted turn of fate, become more focused on success and winning, even as life, as we know it, has halted. This success and winning, however, is not the kind we are used to. This is a kind of “glo-up” (as the kids would say) that puts our personal glo-ups to shame. There’s a lot of unknowns out there, but we are learning as we go. The only way to come out on top of this situation is to work together and take care of one another. One fairly easy way to do this is to wear a face mask… properly. 

Below, I will give some useful tips on why we need a face mask, what it should be made of and how to wear one, how to safely remove a mask, and how to wash them. Trust me, it’s easy. And so worth it. Most of this information comes right from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Visit their Coronavirus (Covid-19) information site.

Why do we wear a mask?

First, let me say: Wearing a mask does not take the place of hand washing and social distancing. It is also important to note that people can be carriers of this virus without having any symptoms. Remember, we are learning as we go. And we’ve learned that a simple face mask, when used along with other precautions, can help stop the spread of the virus. 

That’s right—you wear the mask to decrease the chances that you will spread the virus. By wearing the face mask, you are doing your part against Covid-19. Since the virus spreads through droplets in the air, which can then make their way into the mouths and noses of people near you, by wearing a mask you reduce the risk of spreading these droplets. On the same token, by wearing a mask, you can also decrease your chance of having these droplets from other people go in your mouth or nose. Win-win. 

What should my mask be made of?

It is important that our healthcare professionals have the proper equipment at all times. Now more than ever, we need to save surgical masks and N95 respirator masks for our friends and family on the frontline, who are actively caring for patients. The general public does not need this level of protection, especially if we are keeping a distance from others and washing our hands properly. The CDC says things that you have around your house, such as cotton fabric, a T-shirt, or a bandana, work well as face masks. Visit their video guide to making your own masks at home! Or, you can always order some fun masks from Etsy.

When should I wear my mask?

Ideally, you won’t be leaving your house much. But when you are shopping for food and essentials, picking up prescriptions, or find yourself in a situation where you might be around people, wear your new homemade mask! It’s a good idea to have more than one. Keep one in your car and by your front door with your hand sanitizer. 

Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, or unable to remove the mask without help.

How do I wear my mask?

Your mask should:

  • Have a snug fit against your face. Make sure it is comfortable for you.
  • Cover both your nose and your mouth. Having your nose stick out of the mask makes the mask ineffective! 
    • Wear glasses that are fogging up? Gently rinse the lenses in soap and water—let air dry or dab dry with a soft tissue. No more fog!
  • Be secured with ties or ear loops.
  • Have a couple layers of fabric that cover your nose and mouth.
  • Allow for breathing without any difficulty.
  • Be able to be washed in a washing machine and dried in a dryer without damage or change to shape.

How do I take off my mask?

  • Wash your hands.
  • Remove the mask from one ear at a time. 
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, mouth, or face.
  • Wash your hands again.

How do I wash my mask?

Since your mask is made of fabrics from around your home that would normally be washed, throw that mask in your washing machine and dryer! This is where having more than one mask comes in handy, too. Wash your mask often, depending on how much you are using it. Washing at least weekly is a good practice. 

See, not so bad, right? Stay home, stay safe, wash your hands. And if you must go out, wear a mask! 

Marisa worked at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania on a medical-oncology unit for several years. She then worked as an outpatient infusion nurse in Cherry Hill, NJ, and currently works per diem as a home hospice nurse. She also has her Bachelor’s degree in English Literature from the University of Scranton, where she played basketball and made many lifelong friends. Originally from Philadelphia, she now resides in Mt. Ephraim, NJ. She spends her free time either in Cape May, skiing in the Poconos, or spending time with her family and friends- including her dog Peanut.

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