December 4, 2020

Nine common mistakes when putting on a mask


We put it in our faces every day; we laugh, chat and sneeze. The mask has become a forced icon of the pandemic, of obligatory use both to go out to the street, as in closed spaces and in public transport.

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Although they have been designed to completely cover both the nose and the mouth, and capture the respiratory droplets that we expel, it is not uncommon to see them hanging from the ears or resting as if they were a beard on the neck or chin. We collect some of the most common wrong ways of put on the mask, and the explanation of epidemiologist Joan Caylà why they don’t work.

1. Mask with hole

Punching a hole in your mask so you can drink through a straw can seem like an ingenious solution when you’re on a terrace or in a public place with other people and you don’t want to remove it to keep yourself protected. Even the American designer Ellen macomber sells hole fabric masks, and is out of stock in its online store.

But the hole reduces its effectiveness, warns Caylà. “The hole remains, and then you will go down the street or you will meet in a closed room and the mask will no longer protect because it is not intact.” In his opinion, it doesn’t make any sense; especially if you are going to use it later on another site and for a different purpose.

2. The X’s on the rubbers

Many people make a cross on the rubber because the mask is too big for them. The problem is that this technique usually leaves space on both sides of the cheek; And, to do its job, it is important that the mask fits well so that the droplets cannot escape from the sides.

“You have to cover both the nose and the mouth, but without leaving free spaces: otherwise there will always be some droplet or micro-drop that can escape,” says the doctor. And we must also check our face mask: there are low quality masks that do not cover well.

3. Don’t put the mask under your nose

Lowering the mask below the nose is a frequent practice, especially to avoid heat or excessive sweating; for example, when playing sports. It is also used by those who try to prevent the glasses end up cloudy.

But it does not work. “There are people who go down the street and only cover their mouths. This is insufficient,” warns Caylà. The main objective of putting on the mask is to protect other people from your respiratory drops. But if you only cover your mouth, you still breathe out tiny drops through your nose.

4. Nose patch

A more frequent strategy in noisy places, when we want to make ourselves understood, and we leave our mouths uncovered so that our interlocutor can read our lips. But this strategy is probably even more dangerous than the mask under the nose; Above all, if it is done in order to shout and be heard, because it is most likely that, in addition, that person will approach us.

We should all assume that non-partners should always be two meters away from us; and with a correctly placed mask. “If we all strictly complied with this recommendation, we would not have the problem with covid-19 that we have at this time,” the doctor added.

5. Pending mask (on the ear)

It happens a lot: it’s nice to take off your mask for a moment and take a deep breath. And the ear seems like the perfect place to hold it for a bit. If someone feels this urge urgently, it must be done in a place where no one is around. But be careful: if the mask falls to the ground, you will be adding germs and dirt that can end up on your face.

6. The beard mask

Another very common technique: put the mask on your neck or chin for a moment. As with the mask on the ear, it does not provide protection, neither for those who wear it nor for those around us.

Again, if the surface of the mask harbors dirt, germs or particles with coronavirus, we will be bringing them dangerously close to the face. And every time you lift the mask up or down, it can end up on your fingers, and then your nose. Therefore, the safest thing is to take it off completely and keep it for that time (if there is no one).

7. The scarf or scarf

Garments such as scarves or foulards are not a reliable alternative. “Although this is probably better than nothing, the ideal is to use the appropriate mask,” he notes. [Mascarillas contra el coronavirus: cuáles protegen, cuáles no y cómo usarlas.]

8. And the face screen?

Plastic screens are designed, above all, for the use of aerosols and other similar paints. Therefore, they protect exclusively from very large drops. And it is only justified if we have to talk to a deaf-mute person, who is guided by the movements of the mouth.

9. The eternal mask

The mask has a shelf life; and when this is exhausted, it loses effectiveness. However, Caylà warns that the main problem is excessive use; because there are those who use them many days in a row. Therefore, “the administration should take advantage of VAT reduction on masks to remember how to use them, and that you have to change them frequently, “he concludes.

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