Masks - what are they good for? You may ask yourself this question throughout the day, week or this pandemic.
The reality is we are wearing them in all indoor public spaces. In clinic. The grocery store. While getting your hair cut.
Wearing a mask is one of many ways we can help limit the spread of germs, bacteria and viruses, like COVID-19. Masks are used as a barrier to stop the spread of respiratory droplets that can be produced when a person coughs, sneezes, or talks(main way COVID-19 is transmitted). In Saskatchewan, healthcare professionals are required to wear medical masks when working with patients.
You may notice that in hospital settings, some healthcare professionals are required to wear what is called an N95 respirator which provides more protection and has a more snug fit than a surgical mask.
The population you are working with, the nature of your job, and the potential risk for generating airborne particles determines the type of mask you are required to wear. In a community setting the Government of Saskatchewan has recently made it mandatory to wear a mask in any indoor public place.
For you, this does not need to be a surgical mask, rather can be a cloth mask.
We can't forget that proper hand hygiene and still making attempts at socially distance are still important.
Medical or Surgical Mask
- Made from at least 3 layers of synthetic woven materials with a filtration layer in the middle.
- Reduces transfer of saliva or respiratory droplets from the wearer to others and vice versa.
- Effective barrier against large droplets released when talking, coughing or sneezing.
- Types/levels: N95, N99, FFP2, FFP3
- Respirators come in different sizes to ensure a proper seal and fit around the face. Healthcare professionals must undergo fit testing to determine the proper size of mask, unlike surgical masks which have a looser fit and do not require fit testing.
- Filters at least 95% of airborne particles if fitted and worn properly.
- Protects the wearer from both large and smaller airborne aerosol particles. Certain medical procedures (ex. Inserting a breathing tube) may create smaller airborne aerosol particles which is why working in these settings require the use of N95 masks to provide the greatest amount of protection.
- Offer less protection and are not made from the same fabrics compared to surgical masks and respirators.
- Do not have to be tested to recognized standards.
- Sufficient to protect people in a public setting.
How to wear a mask
- Clean hands with hand sanitizer or soap and water prior to putting your mask on.
- Open your mask fully to cover from your nose to just below your chin.
- Pinch the nose bar to ensure your mask fits snug to your face.
- Avoid touching your mask or face under the mask.
- If you do touch your face or mask, be sure to properly clean your hands.
- Clean hands with hand sanitizer or soap and water.
- Remove using the ties or elastic loops. Do not touch the front of your mask.
- If wearing a single use mask, do not reuse, dispose of the mask in the garbage. If reusable, ensure mask is washed prior to wearing again.
- After discarding your mask clean your hands once again with hand sanitizer or soap and water.
~ Alex, Physiotherapist
Government of Canada – Non-medical Masks and Face Coveringshttps://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/prevention-risks/about-non-medical-masks-face-coverings.html
CBC – Masks and COVID-19: When, how and why you’d wear them https://www.cbc.ca/news/health/masks-coronavirus-1.5507186
World Health Organization – Masks and COVID-19 https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/question-and-answers-hub/q-a-detail/q-a-on-covid-19-and-masks
Alberta Health Services – When and How to Wear a Maskhttps://www.albertahealthservices.ca/assets/info/ppih/if-ppih-covid-19-patients-masks.pdf