How to Properly Use Face Masks

We hope everyone is doing well and staying healthy during this unusual time. We wanted to share some great information on how to use a face mask correctly from DBA's Safety Committee.

What is a surgical face mask?

A surgical mask is a loose-fitting, disposable mask that’s rectangular in shape. The mask has elastic bands or ties that can be looped behind your ears or tied behind your head to hold it in place. A metal strip may be present at the top of the mask and can be pinched to fit the mask around your nose.

A properly worn three-ply surgical mask may help block transmission of large-particle microorganisms from droplets, sprays, splatters, and splashes. The mask may also reduce the likelihood of hand-to-face contact.

The surgical mask’s three-ply layers work as follows:

  • The outer layer repels water, blood, and other body fluids.

  • The middle layer filters certain pathogens.

  • The inner layer absorbs moisture and sweat from exhaled air.

Steps to putting on a face mask

  1. Before putting on the mask, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, or rub your hands together thoroughly with alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

  2. Check for defects in the face mask, such as tears or broken loops.

  3. Position the colored side of the mask outward.

  4. If present, make sure the metallic strip is at the top of the mask and positioned against the bridge of your nose.

  5. If the mask has:

  • Ear loops: Hold the mask by both ear loops and place one loop over each ear.

  • Ties: Hold the mask by the upper strings. Tie the upper strings in a secure bow near the crown of your head. Tie the bottom strings securely in a bow near the nape of your neck.

  • Dual elastic bands: Pull the top band over your head and position it against the crown of your head. Pull the bottom band over your head and position it against the nape of your neck.

  1. Mold the bendable metallic upper strip to the shape of your nose by pinching and pressing down on it with your fingers.

  2. Pull the bottom of the mask over your mouth and chin making sure to cover your nose as well.

  3. Be sure the mask fits snugly.

  4. Don’t touch the mask once in position.

  5. If the mask gets soiled or damp, replace it with a new one.

Once the mask is positioned securely, there are certain precautions to keep in mind to ensure you don’t transfer pathogens to your face or hands.

Do not:

  • touch the mask once it’s secured on your face, as it might have pathogens on it

  • dangle the mask from one ear

  • hang the mask around your neck

  • crisscross the ties

  • reuse single-use masks unless the mask has useful life left.

If you have to touch the face mask while you’re wearing it, wash your hands first. Be sure to also wash your hands afterward, or use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

How to remove and discard a surgical mask

It’s important to remove the face mask correctly to ensure you don’t transfer any germs to your hands or face. You also want to make sure you discard the mask safely.

Steps to taking off a face mask

  1. Before you take off the mask, wash your hands well or use hand sanitizer.

  2. Avoid touching the mask itself, as it could be contaminated. Hold it by the loops, ties, or bands only.

  3. Carefully remove the mask from your face once you: unhook both ear loops, or untie the bottom bow first, followed by the top one, or remove the bottom band first by lifting it over your head, then do the same with the top band.

  4. Holding the mask loops, ties, or bands, discard the mask by placing it in a covered trash bin if it has no useful life yet. If the mask can be used again, place into a marked paper bag until it’s next use (at least 3 days later).

  5. After removing the mask, wash your hands thoroughly or use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

Stay safe!

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