While staying home and avoiding outside contact is one way to avoid catching ‘COVID19 from others, it is not always possible. Some of us must work outside the home. We all need food – whether we have it delivered or go out for a quick store run, there will be outside contact. Sometimes unexpected events force leaving the home, such as when one is injured and needs to seek care.
When we leave our homes it is important to do a few basic things to protect ourselves during this pandemic. You’ve heard them before:
- Wash hands after touching commonly touched surfaces. If soap and water isn’t available, use sanitizer.
- Don’t touch your face – especially eyes, nose and mouth.
- Stay 6 feet from others.
Now that most of the US has been told to wear cloth masks while in public, I am noticing that the way people are wearing them is not safe.
As a medical student we had training on how to wash our hands and how to properly put on and take off protective gear. At the time I thought it was excessive to spend so much time on these seemingly intuitive procedures because there were more important things to learn in medicine.
I underestimated the value in these procedures. We all should know how to properly use gear to be safe. Now that the public is using masks and gloves, they also should learn how to properly use them.
Most of us do not wash our hands properly. Many don’t cover their cough and sneeze safely. We touch our face far too often.
We can do better to protect ourselves, our families, and our community.
The CDC now recommends that people wear cloth masks when they are in public spaces if they are unable to maintain a 6 foot distance from others.
Cloth masks are being promoted to protect spread of coronavirus from people without symptoms. There are many online tips on how to make them, or you can use one of the instructions from the CDC.
No child under 2 years should wear a mask per the CDC recommendations due to safety concerns. In my opinion any child who is not able to properly wear a mask should not wear one. If they play with it they increase the risk of contamination of their hands and other surfaces. This can lead to infection of the child and others.
Masks can increase your risk of getting infected if you use them improperly.
Remember that the outside of the mask may get germs from the outside air and the inside of the mask will have your germs. Either way, the mask collects germs, so never touch the mask itself without first cleaning your hands, then cleaning hands again afterwards. Use the straps to handle the mask as much as possible.
I often see people put them on, adjust them, and take them off without first cleaning their hands. Your hands may be contaminated, which then puts the germs on the mask, which is put right up against your nose and mouth – it’s like you’re inviting the germs in!
Sometimes they’re inappropriately worn below the nose or under the chin. Again, this allows the inside surface of the mask to get contaminated, so when it gets put back in place you breathe those germs right in.
I love the article from the New York Times. It has helpful pictures of right and wrong use.
For everyone out there who is wearing a mask for protection: it is important to understand what types of masks there are, what they do and don’t do, and how to use them properly. When worn improperly, they increase your risk.#washhands #stayhome #PPE https://t.co/A9DynZ9gBz— Dr. Kristen Stuppy (@pediatricskc) April 10, 2020
Some people put the mask down haphazardly on a desk or table or on the console of their car. It is best to have a paper bag to put the mask in between uses during the day.
Here are my bags, one for each day of the week at work:
Cloth masks should be washed at least daily – more if soiled. Using regular laundry soap is fine.
If you’re wearing a mask, it’s important that you wear it properly.— Dr. Kristen Stuppy (@pediatricskc) April 10, 2020
I hate doing videos, but this is important enough to me that I made a video. Wearing masks improperly can increase your risk of getting sick, so please wear it properly!https://t.co/2mtAvQ9i6k
There is no recommendation to wear gloves in public at this time.
Gloves can be very helpful if you’re in contact with body fluids (blood, vomit, mucus) but routine use can give false security of cleanliness.
I see people in public spaces wearing gloves as if they sanitize anything they touch.
They do not.
Gloves collect all the germs you touch, so if you wear them at the store and swipe your hair off your cheek with them, it’s no different than if you touched your face without gloves.
I’ve seen a women shop, then dig in her purse with gloves on, handle money, and then touch her baby carrier. Big no! It would be better to use sanitizer after touching public surfaces and before touching anything else.
If you wear gloves, they should be used to remind yourself not to touch your face. You should wash or sanitize your hands when the gloves come off. The gloves should never touch items that you don’t want infected, such as your face or anything that comes into contact with your baby.
Wash or sanitize your hands when you remove your gloves.
Follow these recommendations to stay safe:
To protect yourself and the community, it is important to follow the most recent CDC recommendations.
Remember that the purpose of a mask is to prevent the wearer from spreading germs. If sick, it can help those around you from getting sick. Because we’re learning that a significant number of people with coronavirus do not have symptoms, a mask can help to prevent them from spreading the virus.
- Stay home when possible as long as the recommendations remain.
- When you leave your home for outdoor exercise that will allow at least 6 ft spacing from others with only brief passing of others: do not wear a mask. It is too difficult to breathe when exercising through a mask and it’s not necessary if you aren’t near others.
- If you will not be able to maintain a 6 ft distance from others, a cloth mask should be used for adults and children over 2 years of age if they can follow safe use.
- Wash or sanitize your hands every time before you touch the mask – putting it on, adjusting it, and taking it off.
- Make sure the mask covers your nose and chin.
- If you take the mask off, put it in a paper bag or cardboard box. Place the outside part of the mask down so that the part that touches your face doesn’t touch anything.
- Handle the mask by the straps as much as possible.
- If gloves will be used, wash hands before putting them on and after taking them off. The gloves should be considered “dirty” and not used to touch things that should stay clean, such as your face.