COVID-19 pandemic has distorted the working of the entire world and although there is no valid cure for coronavirus yet, there are various ways you can prevent yourself as well as others from getting an infection. Using a mask is one of the most effective ways to avoid COVID-19 infections. In the past months, there has been a surge in the use of masks however what’s more important is the ‘correct’ usage of the mask and not just the usage.
Primarily there are three types of masks used: cloth masks, surgical masks and N95 respirator masks; no matter which mask you use it is important to use, reuse and dispose the mask appropriately and responsibly.
Cloth masks: They can be implemented for routine use; however, their effectiveness is less as compared to other masks as cloth masks do not have the ability to filter the bacterial particles in the air. It is always a better option to opt for a cloth mask rather than not using any mask at all. Highly Not Recommended for people who take care of infected patients or people showing any symptoms of COVID-19.
Layered surgical mask: This is a highly effective, disposable polypropylene mask that can block air, particle droplets, sprays containing virus. It is a loose-fitting mask thus does not block the small particles in the air from entering the nose and mouth.
Considered to be the most effective against COVID-19 virus, 3-ply surgical masks can filter out pollutants, dust and other chemicals. As the name suggests, this mask comprises of 3 layers and a metal strip at the top which can be adjusted around the nose. Highly recommended for people taking care of infected, front-line workers or healthcare providers.
N95 Respirator: This mask has respirators that filter around 95% of very small particles with a capability of trapping virus as well as bacterial particles up to 0.3 microns in size. This polypropylene mask is not recommended for routine use of the general public. Highly recommended for doctors, front-line workers, people meeting COVID-19 confirmed patients etc.
Ideally, it is suggested to avoid reusing the masks after using them once. But if you want to use a mask again, make sure you keep it dry and disinfect it after every use.
Cloth mask: Cloth masks can be washed and disinfected before re-using.
Layered surgical mask: If the layers and the shape of the surgical mask are undamaged, store it carefully in a plastic bag for re-use. Surgical masks can be re-used only for 3 days. If the mask is torn or soiled, avoid re-using it.
N95 respirator: An N95 mask can be used, multiple times while storing it safely when not in use. It should be compulsorily stored in a clean plastic container. Make sure that the mask is kept in a dry atmosphere for 3-4 days. Another way to disinfect the N95 mask is to sterilize it. It is advised to use 2-3 masks alternatively.
COVID-19 virus has the tendency to stay on any surface for up to 72 hours. Hence, healthcare providers advise against the reuse of the masks in all circumstances. Any mask used by an infected person should never be used again.
A used mask is a home to virus and bacteria. Researchers have claimed that coronavirus has the potential to stay on any surface for few hours. Hence, it is necessary to understand that used masks should be discarded with care. Our respiratory secretions get transmitted on the mask and can prove fatal if someone else comes in direct contact with a used mask.
Cloth mask: A cloth mask should be washed thoroughly and frequently with soap after every use.
Layered surgical mask: A Surgical mask should always be removed using its string making sure that you don’t touch the front. It should be removed chin upwards, folded into half like a roll. The secretions from the nose and mouth on the mask should not be exposed. After this, wrap the mask in a newspaper, put it in a polythene bag and discard it.
N95 Respirator: A N95 mask should be removed by holding the edge of the straps, avoiding any contact with the respirator. After use place the mask in a polythene bag or a zip-lock and secure it tightly. It is important not to expose the inside of the mask while disposing.
N95 respirator masks should be immediately discarded if there’s any mucus, respiratory secretion or blood on the mask. It is also advised to throw the mask if someone using it comes in close contact with an infected person. Try to use a clean face shield over N95 mask to minimize the contact of the respirator’s surface with the contaminated air.
Masks are one of the vital precautionary measures that should be followed by everyone to avoid COVID-19 infections and any virus transmission. Everyone should resort to judicious use of the masks to avoid depletion of resources and mainly to stay safe.
There are chances that even after following the precautionary measures, your body might be showing probable slight symptoms of COVID-19. In such cases, it is best to visit a pathology lab and get an appropriate COVID-19 test. The network of Pathkind Pathology Labs all across India offers the best COVID-19 test facilities. Government- approved RT-PCR as well as anti-body tests are diligently conducted at Pathkind Pathology Labs in accordance with necessary safety protocols.
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