HEALTH WATCH: Mask etiquette amid COVID-19 – News – Wilmington Star News
Wearing a mask, although sometimes uncomfortable, can help limit the spread of the coronavirus
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, health officials encourage good hand hygiene, social distance, and routine cleaning and disinfecting. Considering data about how the highly contagious virus spreads, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also recommends wearing a cloth face covering in public settings to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Dr. Chad Weston, MD, who practices family medicine at Novant Health Oceanside Family Medicine and Convenient Care in Shallotte, said while wearing masks — including cloth masks — can be uncomfortable and inconvenient, “knowing that everyone wearing a mask is demonstrating caring for their neighbor and community is the bigger benefit.”
1) Wearing a mask or a cloth face covering is about protecting others
“Masking among everybody reduces the chance of spread,” Weston said. “It isn’t so much about protecting yourself as it is about protecting your communities, and it really is about being a part of something bigger than yourself. I’ll see some folks that seem to think they are tough guys, but that may not always be the case. I don’t think this virus necessarily discriminates in that regard. Regardless of how healthy a person may seem to be or feel that they are, there’s still a chance of contracting it.”
According to CDC, the COVID-19 virus has been detected in people who show no symptoms. Therefore, health experts say wearing a mask or cloth face covering whether one has symptoms or not helps prevent spread of the virus.
While research is ongoing to learn more about how the virus is transmitted whether through airborne transmission, droplet transmission or both, Weston said, “We advise everyone to wear masks to help themselves and more importantly to protect each other.”
2) Wearing masks reminds people not to touch parts of their face
Health officials recommend avoiding touching yout face to help protect against infection. But scratching and touching is something many do numerous times throughout the day, often without noticing.
“I think another big thing about masking is that it helps remind you not to put your hands on your face or itch your eyes, mess with your nose or mouth,” Weston said. “Those kinds of behaviors over numerous times during the day and numerous contacts with surfaces that may have the virus on them increases the possibility of someone contracting the virus.”
3) Washing hands frequently is more effective than wearing gloves
Some people who wear masks are also wearing gloves to try to protect themselves. Weston said he worries this can have the opposite effect.
“I really don’t see the value of wearing gloves; if anything, I see it as more of a detriment because people are less likely to wash their hands while wearing gloves,” he said. “And the thing is, within minutes they cross contaminate themselves by touching something with gloves. Rarely will people maintain a sterile field while wearing gloves; so, it kind of defeats the purpose. I’d rather them not wear gloves and wash their hands 10 times more frequently.”
4) Be careful taking masks on and off to help reduce the risk of infection
Taking a mask on and off throughout the day without proper hand hygiene can pose issues.
“The more you take it on and off the greater the probability of your hands contaminating the mask and your hand coming in contact with your face,” Weston said.
When it is time to remove one’s mask, Weston said, one should wash your hands before taking the mask off, remove the mask, and then wash your hands again.
Weston said if while driving around one wants to take your mask off between stops, utilize hand sanitizer when you can’t wash your hands.
“I see people driving down the road with mask on in their vehicle. I don’t know if that’s critical, but if while you’re driving in your car, and you’re able to do a simple (hand) hygiene technique like using hand sanitizer, and then remove your mask, and then use hand sanitizer again when you put the mask back on, it reduces the chances of contaminating something that’s sitting up against the face,” he said.
Some pull masks down while interacting with others, but Weston said removing one’s mask to speak to others or wearing the mask around one’s neck defeats the purpose.
“The whole point is to create an additional two-way barrier between the air circulating and your respiratory tract,” he said.
5) Wearing a mask doesn’t replace other pro-active safety measures
According to the CDC, people should wear a cloth face covering to cover their nose and mouth while out in public, and emphasizes that this is an additional public health measure to reduce the spread of COVID-19 that should be used in addition to — not instead of — other measures such as social distancing, frequent hand cleaning, and other preventative actions.
Facial covers such as cloth masks are recommended for the public in order to help reserve surgical masks and N-95 respirators for health care workers and first-responders.
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