With more cities and states across the country mandating masks, it's important to remember how to wear and take care of one.
10TV talked with Dr. Iahn Gonsenhauser, the Chief Quality and Patient Safety Officer at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. Below is part of our Q&A:
Why should we wear a mask?
"Masks are so critical right now in our response to novel coronavirus," Gonsenhauser said. "We believe it's spread primarily through respiratory droplets, possibly even through aerosol or air-borne aerosols - tiny particles that get airborne. Masks really are the number one, two, three, four, five best measures we can have for reducing exposure to those infectious particles."
What should we look for when purchasing a mask?
"You should really be focused on the material and also the size and the fit. If your mask isn't comfortable, if it doesn't fit you, you aren't going to wear it and it's not going to be doing you or anybody else any good," Gonsenhauser said. "The material [is] very important. If you can see daylight or a naked light bulb through your mask, that is probably not a tight enough material to do you much good or anybody around you. You really want something that is multiple layers of material."
Why should your mask cover your nose?
"Your nose, your nasopharynx, is a great source of those droplets and aerosols that we are concerned about. Any exhaled breath can have potential infectious material in it, so the nose is a big part of that as well. You do a lot of exhalation through the nose. You want to make sure you keep that covered," Gonsenhauser said.
How often should we be washing our masks?
"The washing question really depends on how often you use it," Gonsenhauser said. "You are going to be the best judge of what kind of abuse you've put it through. If you just wore it one time to go through the grocery store, just put it in a dry place where it can air out and dry out nicely. You can reuse it again quite a few times before you have to wash it. [However,] those masks you don't want to wait until they are visibly soiled. They hold moisture a little more readily than the non-woven materials. That's something you want to throw in the washing machine at least once a week."
What is 'maskne' and how can we prevent it?
"If you have very sensitive skin, there is a chance that you could have some reaction to just having something on your face for that period of time. The best thing you are going to do is avoid the situations where you are going to wear a mask if you can. If not, obviously your general skin hygiene is going to be important and using a delicate moisturizer of some sort. If it gets really bad and you're really concerned about it, or you're worried you're having a sensitivity or allergic reaction, that's the time to call one of the doctors that are part of your healthcare team," Gonsenhauser said.
Can you clear up some common misconceptions you've heard about mask-wearing?
"From first-hand experience working in hospitals for a very long time, I've worn masks for extended periods of time again and again," Gonsenhauser said. "There are really no health impacts - certainly no evidence to support a lack of oxygen." Gonsenhauser also added your immune system will not be weakened by wearing a mask. He said, "You're exposed to plenty in your environment on a daily basis - through touching items and whatnot - that will help you continue to be exposed to the natural pathogens in the environment that you want to develop an immune response to. Wearing a mask is not going to harm you in that way."
Here are some resources on mask-wearing and care: