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When and How to Use Face Masks? Can Wearing a Mask Protect You Against COVID-19?

Knowledge about the transmission of Coronavirus is accumulating every day. SARS CoV2 is a respiratory disease and therefore wearing masks is advised to both general public and healthcare workers. The severity of the infection is reported to vary from one person to another, while some report very mild systems, while some patients reported facing severe acute respiratory illnesses, and in extreme cases patients had sepsis with organ dysfunction, leading to death. On the contrary, there are a few people who are asymptomatic and do not report any symptoms.

As per the WHO, Coronavirus spread among people through contact routes and respiratory droplets. Droplet transmission can take place if a persona is in close contact with the infected person i.e. within 1 meter and gets exposure to potentially infective respiratory droplets via sneezing, coughing, or very close personal contact through nose, mouth, or conjunctivae. Here is a guide to effectively use your face masks amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Use of Medical Masks to Provide Care to COVID-19 Patient

Medical masks are the surgical masks that are pleated or flat in shape and are affixed to the head with straps that go around the ears and head. Their effectiveness is based on the standardized test methods (ASTM F2100, EN 14683, or equivalent) to ensure adequate breathability, filtration, and optionally, fluid penetration resistance.

Check out the Different Types of Face Masks To Protect Yourself from COVID-19 and Similar Infections

If you are considering wearing a face mask to protect yourself against respiratory infections, there are three types of masks you should be aware of:

1. Surgical Face Masks

Surgical face are disposable masks and are easily breathable masks with fairly loose-fitting. They are approved as medical devices by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). You must have seen nurses, dentists, medical practitioners, and surgeons wearing them while treating patients.

Surgical masks basically prevent transmission of large bodily fluids droplets containing germs or other viruses through mouth or nose. moreover, it also offers protection against infections that may spread through coughs and sneezes.

You may like to Read: Health Insurance for Coronavirus in India
2. Cloth Face Masks

You can wear a cloth face mask when stepping out in public for grocery shopping, where you may come in close contact with the general public and are close. As per the WHO guidelines, it is imperative to wear a face mask or have your face covered when you are within 6 feet of distance to other individuals.

However, it is imperative to know that a cloth mask may not be as effective as other masks that have at least 3-layers of protection like respirators or surgical face masks. However, cloth masks are still beneficial in reducing the community transmission of the virus, if worn by the public at large. It prevents transmission of droplets via asymptomatic people. It is easy to make a cloth mask at home with few basic materials such as t-short, cotton fabric, and even a headband. You can refer to the CDC instructions for the same.

While making a cloth mask, make sure that it fits tight against the face and covers both nose and mouth. To keep it close you need to use ear loops. And avoid touching your eyes, face, and nose when removing your cloth face mask. People who have difficulty breathing, children below the age of 2-years who cannot remove their masks on their own should avoid wearing a cloth mask.

3. Respirator Masks

Respirators masks also called as N95 masks are designed to offer protection against small air particles including coronavirus and other H1N1 viruses. They’re certified by the WHO and CDC.

N 95 masks, as the name suggests can filter almost 95 percent of the air borne particles are often used by painters or other professions dealing with potentially toxic materials.

Respirators should fit perfectly to your face and there should not be any gaps. Healthcare workers during the times of COVID-19 pandemic are advised to wear an N95 mask to avoid being exposed to this deadly virus.

However, make sure that the mask forms a perfect seal and there are no gaps to restrict the entry of airborne viruses. The healthcare workers need to wear them to protect themselves against airborne infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis, H1N1 and COVID-19. Respirator masks protect small particles and flu viruses from entering into the nose, face, and mouth, unlike regular face masks. It offers protection against both small and large particles and protects from airborne diseases.

You may like to Read: Corona Kavach Policy for Covid 19

Guidance On The Use of Face Masks During Coronavirus for The General Public

Various studies on influenza, influenza-like illnesses, and human coronaviruses (not COVID-19) evidently prove that the use of medical masks is successful in preventing the transmission of infected droplets from symptomatic infected person to another person and the potential contamination of the environment. Listed below are some of the guidelines that are issued by the World Health Organization for the General Public:

  • Strictly do not share face masks with another person
  • If the mask is wet from inside or is soiled, it should be changed ( if disposable) or washed (if reusable)
  • Same mask should not be born for an extended time period
  • Non-medical masks should have a minimum of three layers based on the fabric used. The outermost layer is exposed to the airborne particles and the innermost layer of the mask is in contact with the wearer’s face
  • When removing the mask avoid touching the outer or front of the face mask and do not touch any other surface, face, eyes, nose and mouth after removing the mask. Wash your hands for more than 20 seconds and then touch anything
  • If it reusable wash the mask, dry it and keep in a sealed bag ,or either discard the mask in a covered dustbin
  • Practice hand hygiene and respiratory hygiene
  • Non-medical masks can be washed daily and need to be handled with care to avoid contamination. If the layers of the mask looks worn out, immediately discard that face mask

Examples of where the general public should be encouraged to use medical and non-medical masks in areas with known or suspected community transmission:

Situation Population Purpose of Mask Type of Mask to Consider
Suspected or known areas with widespread transmission with the limited implementation of containment measures like physical distancing, testing, contact tracing, isolation and medical are for confirmed and suspected cases The general population at social gatherings, mass gatherings, grocery stores, closed settings, work, etc. Potential benefit for source control Non-medical mask
Settings where physical distancing is difficult Public transportation like a plane, bus, trains and special working conditions where the possibility of close contact is higher like social workers, severs, etc. Potential benefit for source control Non-medical mask
High population areas with no physical distancing with limited surveillance, testing capacity, and quarantine facilities People living in the camp like settings, slumps, refugee camps, etc. Potential benefit for source control Non-medical mask
Settings where physical distancing cannot be achieved and increased risk of infection and/or negative outcomes Vulnerable populations like elderly people, People with underlying comorbidities, diabetes, blood pressures, obesity, cancer, and those with weak immunity Protection Medical mask
Any setting in the community Anyone showing signs of COVID-19 Source control Medical mask
(Source: WHO)

In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is recommended that all persons, regardless of whether they are using masks or not, should:

  • Avoid group gatherings and crowded spaces
  • Follow the advice of the local authorities to deal with this global pandemic
  • Maintain a minimum physical distance of at least 1 metre or 3.3 feet from another person, especially if someone is sneezing or coughing or seems unwell
  • Frequently perform hand hygiene using an alcohol-based sanitizer or wash hands with soap and water if it is dirty
  • Follow respiratory hygiene by covering your mouth, nose, and sneeze or cough in the bent elbow or a tissue paper and throw it immediately after use
  • Refrain from touching any possible contaminated surface, nose, eyes, and mouth
You may like to Read: Best Health Insruance Policy in India


While everyone is seen wearing a face mask or having their faces covered, it is also important to have the right knowledge of how the masks should be worn and disposed of. Follow the above –mentioned guidelines to protect yourself and your loved ones during the times of COVID-19.

Written By: PolicyBazaar - Updated: 08 September 2020
5,020,359 Confirmed Cases in India*
34,478,590 Confirmed Cases worldwide*
931,582 Confirmed deaths worldwide*
Disclaimer: Policybazaar does not endorse, rate or recommend any particular insurer or insurance product offered by an insurer.

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