Wearing a face mask (or face covering) is now mandatory in public places. How can this measure be optimized for the protection of all?
Wearing a face mask (or face covering) in the community
Adequate handwashing, coughing or sneezing in the crook of the arm, avoiding to touch the face, and practising physical distancing are some of the well-known measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Wearing a mask/face covering is undoubtedly the preferred protective measure to reduce the risk of infection. All these measures are essential and have taken a predominant place in our daily habits, which is reassuring!
The coronavirus mainly spreads through contact with droplets from respiratory secretions. For example, when you are close to an infected person, droplets released into the air when they cough or sneeze can reach your face or hands. It can also be caught by touching contaminated surfaces or objects. The rationale for wearing a face covering is to prevent droplet projection. It is also the reason why so much emphasis is placed on the importance of keeping a two-metre physical distance.
For whom and why?
Solid data has shown that a fairly high proportion of people infected with the coronavirus present no signs or symptoms, so they are unknowingly infected. Additionally, it would appear that, for those who do display symptoms of the infection, the period of contagion begins before the onset of signs and symptoms. This is one of the reasons why it is so important to rely on wearing a mask/face covering as a protective measure even in the absence of symptoms of COVID-19.
Systematic use of a face covering in public places is primarily to protect other people, not the wearer of the mask, by preventing the projection of infected droplets into the air, if this person coughs or sneezes. Appropriate use of the mask has been shown to reduce the spread of the coronavirus and decrease mortality associated with COVID-19.
So when you wear a mask, you protect others, and when they wear it, they protect you. It is a simple measure that, in some cases, can save lives!
It is mandatory to wear a mask on public transit and in closed or partially open public places for people aged 10 and over, barring exceptions. Moreover, public health experts strongly recommend its use for children in public transit and enclosed spaces from the age of two.
Currently, all elementary school students (except kindergarten) must wear a face covering in hallways, common school areas and on the school bus. Only Grade 5 and 6 students are required to wear it in class.
For high school students, a procedural mask must be worn at all times, both outside and inside the school.
What type of mask should I choose?
Several types of masks are currently in circulation. In general, the use of respirators (e.g. N95) is for health care providers only. Procedural masks are recommended for different types of providers, for example in work settings that do not allow the two-metre distance to be maintained and do not provide a physical barrier. In the community, a cloth face covering is recommended instead.
Caution, as there are copies available on the market that may seem attractive to purchase. Most of them have not been tested for quality and effectiveness. Many only look like procedural masks or respirators. Don't be fooled and ask your pharmacist for advice before purchasing this type of product. It is also possible to make your own face covering or to make one with the help of someone else that meets the criteria of good manufacturing.
Choosing a face covering for a child can be a challenge, partly because the size of their small faces (and of face coverings) vary considerably. To be effective, it must be perfectly adjusted to your child's face. Also, the fact that it fits snugly and comfortably will motivate your child to wear it and not "fiddle" with it.
Choose a mask that does not crush your child's mouth, so it doesn't get moist, wet or dirty. Pay attention to how it fits and attaches. Some are attached behind the ear, making it easier to adjust and secure. If your child must wear the mask at all times, you may want to consider a model that attaches behind the head to avoid irritation behind the ears.
How do I optimally wear a face mask?
First, it should be emphasized that wearing a face covering should not prevent or deter a person from applying the other recommended preventive measures. This is an additional measure that must not replace other proven methods, such as handwashing and physical distancing. The danger of wearing a face covering is that it gives the person wearing it and those around them a false sense of security. Do not fall into this trap and continue to rigorously apply the recommended measures.
Here are some additional tips to make wearing a face covering more effective and to help better protect you.
- Choose a face covering that stays in place to avoid having to constantly adjust it. Some of them tie at the back of the head rather than behind the ears, which can help.
- Wash your hands before and after you put it on.
- Make sure it always covers your nose and your mouth. It should also cover a large portion of the cheeks and the underside of the chin. It must fit snugly on the face, without any space between the skin and the fabric; otherwise, it is pointless to wear one.
- Avoid touching it, as well as the other areas of the face that are not covered (like the eyes).
- Change it if it is soiled, moist or damaged.
- Never share it with another person.
- Always wash it after use with soap and water. Ideally, it should be washed in hot water in the washing machine.
- If you use disposable masks, remember that they are single-use masks and must be disposed of in a bag-lined waste basket after use.
- If it isn’t absolutely necessary to go out, stay at home. This is undoubtedly the most effective way to avoid any contamination. If you are ill, avoid going out, unless you are going somewhere to receive treatment.
Speak to your pharmacist for additional information about the prevention of infections.