Mask etiquette 101With Covid-19 being declared a pandemic, everyone is using masks to protect themselves. But do we know how to use them right?
Ever since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization, the world has been in a frenzy. And although only one case has been detected in Nepal till date, Nepalis too have been adopting various preventive measures to keep the virus at bay—like using hand sanitisers, washing hands regularly and using face masks.
Nepalis wearing masks is not a new thing. Thanks to the poor air quality, a lot of Nepalis over the course of the past few years, especially in Kathmandu, have become used to using masks. But how many actually know how to use them? Do many know that surgical and cloth masks are not nearly as effective as assumed? Should everyone be wearing masks at a time when there is such acute shortage? Or should they be saved for those who actually need them?
If you don't show symptoms, don't use them
According to doctors, if you don’t have the symptoms of the virus, it’s pointless to put a mask on. However, they do say that if a person is going to crowded places or taking care of those who are ill, it is recommended to wear one.
Dr Sandeep Chandra Shrestha, senior consultant at Birta City Hospital, Birtamode, says that using a mask alone will not save people from the virus.
“If it's not fitted right, you're going to fumble with it," said Dr Shrestha. "You're going to be touching your face, which is how you can get the disease. If you’re going to a crowded place, sure putting a mask on is a good idea but unless you maintain good hygiene, you will not be safe."
They say that just putting on a mask alone will not save you from the virus. In fact, the WHO recommends using surgical masks only in specific cases. Masks should be worn only by those who are suffering from cough and cold and have difficulty breathing. This coupled with hand hygiene and proper medical care can help prevent the virus from spreading.
Masks by themselves are of no help
Doctors working with the WHO also say that masks are only effective when used in combination with frequent hand-cleaning with alcohol-based hand sanitiser or soap and water. Doctors say masks should only be put on after the person washes their hands.
Dispose of them diligently
Then comes the question of disposing the used mask. Here in Nepal people tend to reuse the surgical masks a lot. Some use it for a week some while some use it for even more. But doctors worldwide do not recommend reusing single-use masks.
Change them on time
Many doctors recommend that the masks should be changed as soon as they become damp. Once they are damp, it loses its effectiveness and has to be disposed of in a safe environment. Otherwise, there are chances of the virus spreading.
“Nepalis are quite relaxed when it comes to dealing with pandemics. We need to realise we need to maintain proper health and hygiene. Things like changing masks once a day is recommended. Once they’re damp or have been used for more than a day, it loses its effectiveness,” says Dr Shrestha.
Use them properly
Doctors also want to give emphasis to how the mask is being used by the public. They say that the mask should cover the mouth and the nose and people should make sure that there are no gaps between the face and the mask.
They also recommend not touching the mask while using it. That contaminates it. If you have to use the mask, do so only after washing your hands.
When it comes to removal, doctors say that the masks should be removed from behind. They reiterate that removing it from the front might cause contamination.