India has been reeling under the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic for almost two months now. While many states have started reporting a decline in the daily number of cases, the higher number of deaths is still a cause of worry.
As vaccination drive picks around the world, Health experts and governments have emphasised to not let our guards down and take preventive measures such as wearing a mask at all times. A face mask is one of the most effective weapons in our fight against the pandemic.
A person can catch Covid-19 if he breathes the droplets of an infected person or people may get infected through surfaces, such as touching doorknobs or tables on which infected droplets have landed and then touching their mouth, nose, or eyes. In this scenario, wearing a mask is the most effective way to prevent COVID-19 is to avoid exposure to the virus.
However, wearing a mask is just not enough, following a mask hygiene routine is also necessary as face masks worn for prolonged period contain microbes from our skin and respiratory droplets.
A recent study by testing laboratory Eurofins shows that bacteria, yeast, and mould are some of the elements found in a face mask. Especially, one that you may wear for a long period. According to the study, levels of yeast and mould as well as the total bacterial counts are higher on the masks that had been worn for 12 hours. It also showed that reusable masks generally contained more microbes than disposable ones.
When a mask is used for a prolonged period, it could trap sweat, dirt, dust and various other microbes. Although not all microbes are harmful to your skin, some could stil trigger skin-related infections, allergic reactions and even nasal infections.
Here is your guide to masking hygiene:
First and Foremost, wear two masks for better safety
With various new variants doing the rounds with a high rate of infection, it is better to go for extra precautionary measures. Although an N-95 mask with proper fitting can ensure almost the same level of safety, a double-layered mask is also a good option for better protection. So, a person can wear two cotton cloth masks together or a surgical mask layered with another mask over it.
Wash your mask daily
The mask should be washed after each day of use with soap water if they are washable and disposed of if not washable. One should be careful while washing the masks as aggressive washing or the use of a washboard to clean the fabric may damage it quickly.
Use a gentle soap and lukewarm water solution. Do not use antiseptic detergent or bleach. Masks made of fabric, such as cotton, can be washed in your regular laundry using hot water. After washing, store clean masks in a clean place.
Stop using the reusable masks after 30 washes
Do not use the reusable masks once it has crossed the 30 washes as the antimicrobial, as well as filtration properties of the mask, become less effective. Mask's effectiveness also drops between 10 per cent and 15 per cent if you keep using a reusable mask for a long time. Replacing of masks should be done as soon as they become damp with a new one.
Avoid touching your mask
Avoid touching the front of the mask while removing it. Follow the appropriate technique and untying it from behind or from the straps. After removal of the used mask, your hands should be cleaned either using an alcohol-based hand rub or by the use of soap and water (if your hands are visibly soiled).