A non-medical face mask or covering helps to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Since COVID-19 can be spread by respiratory droplets, face masks can protect the people around you by preventing germs from spreading. Face masks should be worn regardless of whether or not you are experiencing any signs or symptoms of COVID-19, since COVID-19 can be spread by people without symptoms.

It is recommended to wear non-medical face masks or facial coverings in public, especially if it is difficult to maintain a 2-metre distance from others. In particular, it is best to wear a mask when:

  • you're in public and may be in close contact with others (e.g. public transportation)
  • you're in shared indoor spaces with others outside of your immediate household (e.g. shopping areas and stores)
  • directed by your local public health authorities

However, wearing a mask alone will not protect you from COVID-19. Masks are used alongside good hand washing practices and maintaining a physical distance of 2-metres from others to protect yourself and those around you from getting COVID-19.

What type of face mask should I use?

Face masks or coverings can be homemade or purchased, and should:

  • have at least 3 layers, including 2 layers of tightly woven fabric (such as cotton or linen) and 1 middle layer made of a filter-type fabric (such as non-woven polypropylene fabric or a disposable filter)
  • allow for easy breathing
  • be large enough to completely cover the nose and mouth without gaping
  • be changed as soon as possible if damp or dirty
  • comfortably sit on the face
  • fit securely to the head with ties or ear loops
  • maintain its shape after washing and drying

When making your own face masks at home, consider including a pocket for a disposable filter or using a piece of filter fabric as one of the layers. Disposable filters are readily available for purchase, but you can also use a folded paper towel or the non-woven polypropylene fabric that's used to make some reusable shopping bags.  

The Public Health Agency of Canada has detailed instructions on their website on how to make your own face masks.

What type of face masks should I not use?

Do not use non-medical masks or face coverings that:

  • are shared with others
  • impair your vision or ability to do tasks
  • are made of non-breathable materials, or materials that fall apart easily (like tissue)
  • are secured with tape
  • cannot be removed quickly and safely when necessary
  • have exhalation valves or vents
  • are neck gaiters or warmers

Who should not wear a face mask?

Face masks should not be used by:

  • children under the age of 2 years
  • anyone unable to remove them without assistance
  • anyone who has trouble breathing

Can I use a face shield instead of a mask?

Face shields do not replace masks or face coverings.

A face shield is used to protect the eyes from droplets, but it does not protect you from potentially inhaling infectious droplets from others or protect others from your infectious respiratory droplets. Respiratory droplets can escape around the face shield.

However, if you're unable to wear a mask or face covering, you may consider wearing a face shield. Choose a shield that extends around the sides of the face and below the chin. You should also continue good hand washing practices and maintaining a physical distance of 2-metres from others to protect yourself and those around you.

How do I use a mask properly?

When wearing a face mask or facial covering, follow these steps:

  • Ensure the face mask or covering is clean and dry.
  • Wash your hands with soap or use a hand sanitizer before touching the mask.
  • Ensure your hair is away from your face.
  • Place the mask to cover your nose and mouth and secure it to your head with the ties or ear loops.
  • Wash your hands with soap or use a hand sanitizer after touching the mask.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth while wearing the mask.
  • To remove your mask, don't touch the front, only the ear loops.
  • Wash your hands with soap or use a hand sanitizer.

In general, masks should be changed as soon as they become damp or soiled. Avoid storing your used mask in your pocket, since it is contaminated with germs. When not in use, store your mask in a clean paper or cloth bag until you put it on again. Do not hang the mask or face covering from your ears or place it under your chin. Used masks should be placed directly into the laundry and cleaned after each use, by washing on the hot cycle. Disposable and single-use masks should be properly disposed of in a garbage container.

What else can I do to stay safe during an outbreak?

  • Clean your hands frequently with soap and warm water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially before eating or touching your face.
  • Avoid people who are sick.
  • If you are sick, stay home to avoid infecting others.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with your arm if you cough or sneeze.
  • Maintain a 2-metre distance from others.
  • Avoid touching your face, mouth, nose or eyes.
  • Follow public health recommendations for social distancing.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2020. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/COVID-19-and-Face-Masks-What-You-Need-to-Know