Everything You Need To Know About Wearing Medical Masks

A woman putting on a surgical mask

What are medical masks:

Medical masks (also known as surgical masks) are made from a minimum of three layers of synthetic nonwoven materials, and configured to have filtration layers sandwiched in the middle. These masks are available in different thicknesses, have various levels of fluid-resistance and two levels of filtration. These medical masks reduce the respiratory droplets from the wearer to others and to the environment. They also prevent transmission of the virus from others to the wearer.

Medical masks should be used by:

  • Health workers
  • Anyone with symptoms suggestive of COVID-19, including mildly ill people 
  • People caring for suspect or confirmed cases of COVID-19 outside of health facilities
  • People aged 60 or over
  • People with underlying health conditions

How to put on and take off a medical mask:

  • Before touching the mask, clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water 
  • Inspect the mask for tears or holes; do not use a mask that has previously been worn or is damaged.
  • Verify which side is the top – this is usually where the metal strip is
  • Then, identify the inside of the mask, which is usually the white side.
  • Place the mask on your face covering your nose, mouth and chin, making sure that there are no gaps between your face and the mask.
  • Pinch the metal strip so it moulds to the shape of your nose.
  • Remember, do not touch the front of the mask while using it to avoid contamination; if you accidentally touch it, clean your hands.  

How to take off a medical mask:

  • Before touching the mask, clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water 
  • Remove the straps from behind the head or ears, without touching the front of the mask.
  • As you remove the mask, lean forward and pull the mask away from your face.  
  • Medical masks are for single use only; discard the mask immediately, preferably into a closed bin.
  • Clean your hands after touching the mask.
  • Be aware of the condition of the mask; replace it if it gets soiled or damp.

What are respirators:

Respirators (also known as filtering facepiece respirators – FFP) and available at different performance levels such as FFP2, FFP3, N95, N99) are specifically designed for healthcare workers who provide care to COVID-19 patients in settings and areas where aerosol generating procedures are undertaken. Healthcare workers should be fit tested before using a respirator to ensure that they are wearing the correct size. To find out more about how to wear your respirator, read our blog: https://khulanathi.co.za/how-to-wear-your-respirator/

Remember, a mask alone cannot protect you from COVID-19. It must be combined with other measures, including maintaining at least one metre distance from each other, washing your hands frequently and avoiding touching your face while wearing a mask.

Medical mask and respirator options:

Reference: World Health Organization