The issue of whether or not to wear a mask in public is currently made more complex because of the worldwide shortage of surgical masks and N-95 respirators. Ideally, if there were enough mask to go around for everyone, then it would be a good thing for even the general public to wear masks when out and about and around family members who are sick.
Wearing a mask will probably be something that we are recommended to do after the ‘social distancing’ and ‘stay at home’ message is relaxed and the community as a whole starts getting back to work and school, etc.
There is evidence that if masks that are worn consistently and well, in conjunction with measures such as good hygiene, it does make a positive difference in preventing that spread of viruses.
In the US, because of the increased rate of community spread of the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended for the general public to wear cloth face coverings in public settings in an effort to reduce viral exposure and the risk infection when people are out and about. Since this recommendation, there has been a lot of discussion on the news and social media about how to best make homemade masks. This discussion has now also started in Australia.
We must remember, masks and face coverings are not perfect and only offer limited protection – both to the person wearing the mask and those around them. Just because someone wears a mask, does not provide them with an imaginary protecting force field around them. At the moment, we must continue with all the other measures that the Australian Government have recommended: Social Distancing (1.5m or more); Good Hygiene (hand washing and cough etiquette); Limit on Public Gatherings and Staying at Home when possible; and Self-Isolation.
For health care workers and emergency response workers who are at higher risk of being in contact with COVID-19 patients, wearing a surgical mask or N-95 respirator is a must. Of course, they will also be wearing other items of personal protective equipment such good eye protection, disposable gowns / head covers, and gloves.
There are three main types of masks that we’ve been hearing about in the media lately.
1. P2 / N-95 respirator masks (the best);
2. Surgical Masks;
3. Homemade Masks / Cloth Face Covers.
Of the surgical masks and homemade masks varieties, there are a range of types and qualities, that determine their level of protection. Here’s an article about a business that has taken it upon themselves to determine how they can make better homemade faces masks.
When the time comes in Australia to wear masks / homemade face coverings, it’s important that we are ready and know how to wear them properly.
As Dentists, we and our staff are well-trained and familiar with the how to wear masks – after all we wear them everyday when we work.
So we have compiled some important mask wearing tips, that we put into practice on a day to day basis at Grange Road Dental Group.
Time needed: Less than 1 minute.
If you’re going to wear a mask, then wear it properly. Here’s what you need to know when it comes to putting on a mask. We have adapted this list based on our experience and from these two articles, here and here:
Work out which side is the top and which side faces out.
DO NOT wear the mask below your nose or just covering the tip of you nose. (Bonus points if you picked this up from the image of the ceramic sculpture above). The mask needs to come all the way up, close to the bridge of your nose
DO NOT leave your chin exposed.
DO NOT wear your mask loosely with gaps on the sides or under your chin. Do your best to tighten the loops or ties so that the mask is a snug fit around your face with minimal gaps.
Unless you’re familiar with wearing a mask, many of the steps listed above may not come naturally at first. It will take practice and constant awareness to get good at it.
We do believe that it is worth learning how to wear a mask correctly, so that you are ready for when the time comes to wear a mask yourself.
Of most importance, do not have a false sense of security when wearing a mask. Masks are not perfect and only offer limited protection, but when worn properly they do help to reduce viral exposure and prevent risk of infection. This also depends on the type of mask you are wearing.
Masks help, when used in combination with these other very important measure which the Australian State and Federal Government Health Authorities have been recommending:
This is general advice only, based on our experience and education as Dentists in learning how to best wear a mask. We hope it may be of benefit to those who are wanting to learn more about how to wear a mask properly.