Face masks are a key measure in controlling the spread of pathogens. They prevent microbial infection by filtering out germs that can be exchanged through talking or coughing and inhaling. When used properly, they can bring down transmission rates to almost zero percent. That is why it is important to use face masks the right way to maximize their effectiveness.
Below are some reasons you might not be getting the most out of your face mask:
1. Constantly Touching Your Face Mask While in Use
One of the most important things to observe when wearing face masks is to avoid touching them. The risk of contaminating a face mask increases when the wearer keeps getting in contact with it, especially without washing their hands. If you can’t avoid touching your face mask, you might want to consider choosing an antimicrobial face mask, which is imbued with properties that halt the growth of microbes on the fabric’s surface, thereby keeping itself almost germ-free.
2. Wearing an Overused or Unclean Face Mask
Face masks lose their benefits when they are soiled, contaminated, or damaged. In general, it is recommended that disposable face masks be worn for a maximum of one day and should then be discarded right away. N95 masks, on the other hand, can be reused for up to 5 times when properly maintained.
Reusable masks such as cloth masks must be washed after every use in order to keep it clean. They can be easily washed using tap water. Rinse it thoroughly and let it dry before wearing it again. To store it properly, secure it in a clean container or a resealable plastic bag after it has fully dried.
3. Not Wearing a Face Mask Properly
There are proper ways to wear your face mask to get the most out of it. First, you must wash your hand before putting it on and after removing it to avoid contamination. Your face mask must also cover your nose, mouth, and chin. Do not let it hang from one ear or wear it under your chin. Make sure that your face mask is well-fitted around your cheeks. Lastly, never let your mask touch an unsanitary surface. Wearing face masks properly can significantly reduce the amount of pathogens that can be potentially exchanged.
4. Using a Face Mask with Low Filtration Efficacy
Ideally, face masks should have several layers of filter to maximize its filtration efficacy. Cloth masks or DIY masks, in general, have less filters than surgical or N95 masks, but they can still protect you from getting infected as long as they are of good quality. Make sure to get cloth masks that have tightly woven and breathable fabric. To test your face mask, hold it up to a bright light. Your face mask should block the light from coming through. Using face masks with low-quality filters increases your risk of infection.
5. Wearing a Face Mask Inconsistently
Consistent use of face masks is one of the most critical steps to prevent transmission of pathogens. Face masks lose their value when they are not worn correctly or consistently. As a rule of thumb, face masks must be worn at any public setting where the risk of infection is high, such as in public transportation or in a closed environment with limited ventilation.
6. Using a Face Mask with an Exhalation Valve
The World Health Organization does not recommend wearing respirators or masks with exhalation valves. Masks like these are intended for industrial workers exposed to potentially toxic inhalants to prevent particles or dust from being breathed in because the exhalation valves close upon inhalation. In the context of microbial transmission, these masks have no benefit because it would still allow pathogens to pass through the valve opening.
7. Sharing Face Masks
Face masks are intended for a single person-use only and must not, under any circumstance, be shared as it can cause cross-contamination that can further harm the wearer. By using your own face mask, you can prevent whatever pathogen that might have potentially stuck to its surface from infecting another person. Similarly, you can keep yourself protected from any microbe that you might get from wearing another person’s face mask.
8. Not Using the Right Kind of Face Mask
There are many kinds of face masks designed for specific purposes. Using the wrong kind of face mask in a particular setting can still make you vulnerable to infection or might be a waste of resources. For example, cloth masks are generally not recommended for use in high-risk areas such as hospitals. N95 masks, in contrast, may not be suitable to wear in low-risk communities or in settings where infectious transmission is low.
Face masks limit the spread of microbial infection by acting as a mechanical barrier to disease-causing pathogens. It is important to observe the health standards when it comes to wearing face masks to ensure that they maintain their effectiveness, so they can help keep you and your loved ones safe.