COVID-19: Guidelines for the use of Facemasks

The outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-2019) has affected millions of people all over the world and claimed hundreds of thousands of lives. Ever since then there have been government regulations that has limited the activities of people in one way or the other with the aim of slowing down the spread of the virus. Scientists all over the world have also been doing vast research in other to bring new techniques to inactivate the virus as well as develop vaccine that will totally prevent the infection.
Public health organisation such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and United States Centre for disease control (CDC) recommended different precautionary measures including the use of facemask in other to prevent the virus from infecting people. In this article will be discussing the meaning of facemask and it various guidelines for usage.

What is Facemask?

Facemask are protective coverings that are worn to cover the nose and mouth so as to prevent infections. The 3 major types of facemask are surgical facemask, fabric masks and N95 respirator. Each of this types have different recommendations and usage. Before the outbreak of COVID-19, surgical facemask are usually used during surgical operations in theatres to prevent the transmission of germs from the surgeon’s mouth and nose into the patient’s wounds and also to protect the surgeon from infections. Facemasks are also used in research laboratory especially where the culturing of microorganisms are involved.
The use of facemask is highly important as it protect you from many infections including those that are caused by viruses. However, the incorrect use of facemasks can increase your risk of these infections.

Guidelines for the use of facemasks

These are various rules and regulations that coordinates the use of facemask without posing any health risk to the user.
The following are different guidelines for the use of facemasks:

Who should wear a face mask?

According to the Center for disease control (CDC)everyone above the age of 2 should wear a facemask especially in a public setting where the keeping of physical distancing is impossible.
People get infected with the virus when they inhale contaminated respiratory droplets from an infected person that sneezes, coughs, spits or talks into the air. They can also be infected when they come in contact with contaminated surface and touch their eyes, nose or mouth with the unwashed hands. This is the reason it is important to use facemask correctly in public gatherings along with other precautionary measures such as washing of hands or the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers and maintenance of physical distancing.

Who should not wear a facemask?

Based on the guidelines on the use of face mask by the Center for disease control (CDC), children below the age of 2, people who have difficulty in breathing, anyone that is unconscious or those that cannot remove the masks by themselves should not wear a facemask.

Can I wear a facemask while exercising?

Facemask should not be worn during exercise because it can make breathing very difficult. According to WHO, exercise makes facemasks to wet more quickly thereby making breathing to be difficult and can also increase the growth of microorganisms. The most effective preventive measure during exercise is to keep a physical distance of at least 1metre away from others.

Is it safe to use fabric masks?

Yes, the use of fabric masks are more safe than non-use of mask. There is currently no enough evidence to evaluate the effectiveness of the use of fabric mask in a community setting. However WHO says government should encourage the general public to use fabric masks in the case of widespread community transmission and where physical distancing cannot be maintained.
Therefore in a public setting such as grocery stores, markets, pharmacies and public transport areas where the maintenance of physical distancing is difficult, fabric masks should be used to prevent or slow down the spread of covid-19.

Use of surgical face mask and N95 respirators

The Center for disease control (CDC) do not recommend the use of surgical face mask or N95 respirator for public use. This is because there is a shortage in their supply and healthcare providers and other medical first responder need them to stay protected while doing their job.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends the use of surgical mask for health workers, caregivers for COVID-19 patients, COVID-19 patients(both symptomatic and asymptomatic patients), older adults above the age of 60 and people with underlying health conditions.

How to correctly use facemasks

The use of facemask is very important as it reduces the spread of COVID-19 especially when other precautionary measures are impossible to maintain.

However, the incorrect use of facemask can increase your risk of many infections and this is the reason it is crucial to know the proper way of wearing it.

The following are the method of wearing a face mask correctly:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water or disinfect with alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Do not use face mask that is already damaged or those that been used before
  • Take the mask and gently placed it on your face, adjust it until it covers your nose, mouth and chin and make sure there is no open gap between your face and the mask.

It is important to note that touching the front of the mask can increase your risk of other infections, therefore you should avoid doing this.

How to remove a facemask

  • Wash your hands with soap and water or clean them with alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Gently remove the marks from the ear loops.
  • Clean your hands again with soap and water or hand sanitizer.

Surgical mask and N95 respirator should be disposed properly and immediately after use while fabric mask should be washed with soap, disinfectant and water after use or totally be replaced when damaged.

When should facemasks be used?

Facemasks lower your risk of being infected with COVID-19 and they should only be used when:

  • You are in a public gathering where physical distances cannot be maintained
  • You are a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients (both symptomatic and asymptomatic patients)
  • You are a health care provider or COVID-19 caregiver and attending to COVID-19 patients

It is a very important to acknowledge that the use of facemasks in preventing COVID-19 infection can only be effective when used along with other precautionary measures such as regular handwashing with soap and water or the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizer(at least 60% alcohol) and maintenance of physical distancing of at least 6 metre away from others.

About Adebayo Taiwo

Adebayo Taiwo hails from Africa. He's a Microbiologist , Health Safety and Environment Specialist and a Health Advisor who is concerned about the well-being and healthy lifestyle of people around the globe. The health of my people is my pride.

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