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What to remember when wearing a mask

Posted at 7:16 PM, Jul 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-09 20:16:11-04

(NBC 26) -- Health experts are reminding people the importance of wearing a mask when out in public.

Dr. Jennifer Frank, the Chief Medical Officer at ThedaCare said COVID-19 can spread through droplets from coughing, sneezing and talking. A mask can help protect other people from droplets leaving a person's mouth. She said there are few circumstance in which someone does not need to wear a mask.

"Children under the age of two should not be wearing a mask. There may be some people who, for example, they use oxygen or something like that, they may not be able to get a good mask fitting. But even people with asthma, people who have heart disease, people with anxiety can get used to a mask. Part of it is just finding one that fits you well and is comfortable to wear," explained Dr. Frank.

There are three main types of masks: N95 respirators, surgical/medical masks, and handmade or cloth masks. Dr. Frank said the N95 respirators and surgical masks can prevent droplets from coming in. However, those masks are in limited supply. The N95 respirators block the most in both directions, but Dr. Frank said it's impractical to wear those all the time. Right now, those masks are being reserved for medical professionals and other first responders. The surgical masks are also a good option but in short supply. The cloth face coverings are primarily used to protect other people.

When it comes to wearing a mask, experts say it should cover the nose, mouth, and sides of the face. Dr. Frank said it should fit snug. so limited air is released and particles of the virus don't escape. She added that you should not move the mask down to your neck as it can cause contamination. Dr. Frank said it's important to be consistent in wearing the same side of the mask facing outward to avoid having germs against your face. When touching the mask, for example when putting it on or removing it, she said you should make sure your hands are clean.

Dr. Frank recommends washing the mask after it's worn. If it's a cloth mask, it can be machine or hand washed with hot water and detergent. If it's a surgical mask, she recommends it be put in a paper bag for a week before wearing it again. If you're wearing a surgical mask everyday and reusing it, she suggested labeling bags based on the day so a sanitized mask is always available. It should not be put in a plastic bag because moisture cannot escape and bacteria will likely develop.

To learn more about the CDC's guidance on face coverings, click here.