Questions about wearing masks and gloves to protect against coronavirus

What about wearing gloves when out in public?

Wearing gloves in public is a personal decision, but it’s important to know the facts and proper uses of gloves. We currently don’t recommend using them as along with a false sense of safety, they can result in increased risk and spreading of the virus if not used correctly.

Just like with ungloved hands, touching contaminated surfaces and then other surfaces can lead to the inadvertent transmission and cross-contamination. Gloves won’t prevent or minimize that. For gloves to be effective they need to be treated as ungloved hands, with continued disinfecting and not touching multiple surfaces.

If you are sick, gloves can help a little in protecting others through direct contact, but if you are sick you should stay at home. If you cannot, it’s your choice to wear gloves to protect others. Remember that you need to practice social distancing and proper hygiene, even with the gloves on.

I heard I can get sick from wearing a face mask because of Carbon Dioxide, is this true?

Generally, no. The myth that one can get carbon dioxide poisoning, or hypoxia, from wearing a face mask and breathing in your own expelled breath is unlikely. Non-medical face masks aren’t sealed to the face, therefore air and CO2 circulate in and out of the mask, and they’re typically not worn for a prolonged period of time.

There’s always an increased risk for anyone with a pre-existing underlying health condition, including anxiety, that may cause other symptoms, but in most cases these aren’t significant. If you have concerns about wearing a mask with your respiratory condition, check with your doctor.

For healthcare workers who do wear tighter fitting medical masks or respirators and wear them for a prolonged period of time, the risk may be higher, but they also receive additional training on this. If you’re wearing a medical mask or respirator, be sure to use it properly, to avoid any further health risks or concerns.

Who should wear Medical Masks?

Anyone working in health care settings or serving as a caregiver for patients with or suspected of having Covid 19 should wear medical masks, or respirators, such as the N95 or FFP2 masks. They should also use other personal protective equipment (PPE) and heightened hygiene, such as social and physical distancing when possible, and frequent hand washing.

The following people should choose medical masks over non-medical masks:

  • Healthcare workers
    • Whenever possible, medical masks and respirators should be reserved for healthcare workers. They are the most exposed and are in regular, extended close contact with patients with or suspected of having Covid 19.
  • People who are sick and exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19
    • People who are sick, even those who only have mild symptoms, should quarantine whenever possible, and wear a medical mask. This will help in keeping them from transmitting the virus to others and to surfaces. The virus is spread through coughing, sneezing, or even talking, and spread through droplets, which can come in contact with the faces and hands of others directly, or land on surfaces that are then touched by others.
  • Anyone taking care of a person at home who is sick with COVID-19
    • If you are in close frequent contact with someone who is sick with Covid 19, either as a caregiver or provider, as you are facing repeated exposure to the virus, the medical masks can help protect, somewhat. Again, it’s important to continue to practice as much social distancing, avoiding unnecessary physical contact whenever possible, and frequent hand washing, cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing.

Should Children wear masks?

The CDC recommends that all children over the age of 2 wear a mask in public. You should select a mask that is the appropriate size, either a small bandana or a child size mask, so that it fits properly and doesn’t cover their whole face or restrict their breathing.

Anyone, including a child, with an existing respiratory illness should speak with their doctor first.

Are Non-Medical Masks effective in reducing the spread of Covid 19?

While there is a lot of information floating around about the effectiveness and dangers of using face masks, except for health care workers and caregivers, the use of non-medical face masks has shown to be effective in spreading the virus, especially for those people who are not sick, have mild symptoms, or are asymptomatic.

Healthcare workers and caregivers, and those regularly exposed to others with or suspected to have the virus, should not rely on a non-medical mask. This will offer a false sense of safety in a setting where prolonged exposure is likely. These individuals should instead where medical masks and personal protective gear for their own safety.

What is a Non-Medical Mask?

Non-medical masks are general face coverings that are often homemade using breathable fabrics. There are other masks that can be bought commercially. These masks cover the face and nose, secure with elastic over the ears or ties behind the head and neck and typically don’t have filters, like the N95 masks, although some designs include an option to add additional filter options in the mask. Non-medical masks can sometimes be washed and reused.

There are many patterns and designs for making masks at home, and now there are any number of stores and groups making masks for people. Scarves or bandanas can also be used as a face mask.

What’s the right way to use a face mask?

  • Before putting on the mask, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds. If you’re not able to use soap and water, use hand sanitizer, preferably one with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Put the mask on and secure it either over the ears or tie it behind your head, depending on the type of mask you have.
  • Once you have the mask on, cover your mouth and nose with it, making sure there aren’t any gaps between your face and the mask.
  • Do your best to avoid touching the mask while you’re using it. If you do, clean your hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer.
  • If the mask gets damp or wet, replace it with a dry one.
  • Don’t reuse single-use masks.
  • To remove the mask, take it off from behind. Don’t touch the front of the mask. If it’s a single use mask, discard it properly. Don’t leave it on the ground or in a grocery cart. If it is a reusable mask, place it in a plastic bag or other container that isn’t touching other people or things.
  • Once you’ve removed your mask, clean your hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer.
  • Wash re-useable masks with soap and warm water, or in your regular laundry, after each use.

What about face masks?

While washing your hands often and practicing social distancing are still the best ways to protect yourself and others, the CDC, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recommends covering your face when you need to leave your house. While most experts do not recommend those who aren’t health care workers from wearing medical masks, such as the N 95, they do suggest a cloth mask, a scarf, or bandana to protect others in case you’re sick to reduce the chance of spreading the disease, even if you don’t have symptoms.

There are many instructions online how to make your own masks using fabric and rubber bands. You should also be careful when taking your mask off, being sure to not touch your eyes, nose or mouth. Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer after removing it, and wash your mask regularly, with your normal laundry.

But even if you cover your face, it’s still safest to stay at home except when it’s necessary. And remember, when you’re in public, do your best to stay at least 6 feet, 2 meters, away from others.