Face Mask Best Practices

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COVID-19 : To Mask or Not to Mask?


14 April 2020
IMPORTANT: Government and health experts have implored citizens to NOT use surgical face masks as there is already a critical shortage nationwide (this includes N95, KN95, FFP2 and surgical masks). Our frontline workers, and those most vulnerable, need these masks and the general public should not buy these.

There has been an ongoing debate among health experts in recent weeks about whether everyone should wear a cloth face mask to help curb the spread of COVID-19. However, a number of recent studies have shown that wearing a mask – even when you’re healthy – can have a dramatic impact on flattening the curve as people can by asymptomatic for over 3 weeks in some cases (the actual number of days is unclear at this point).

According to a joint study by the World Health Organization’s Centre for Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Control, the School of Public Health, the Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine and the University of Hong Kong, masks could prove to be a simple but incredibly effective resource to prevent further spreading of the virus.

While they didn’t test individuals infected with COVID-19, they did perform tests on individuals infected with the common cold as well as influenza. “Our findings indicate that surgical masks [as well as homemade cloth masks] can efficaciously reduce the emission of influenza virus particles into the environment in respiratory droplets [such as sneezing or coughing],” the study reads. “This has important implications for control of COVID-19, suggesting that surgical** face masks could be used by ill people to reduce onward transmission

However, with growing evidence showing that many persons infected with COVID-19 display little to no symptoms (referred to as asymptomatic), authorities worldwide are now taking the matter of face masks a step further. Several global leaders and health experts, including South Africa’s Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize and world-leading Durban-based epidemiologist Professor Salim Abdool Karim (among others), now urge all individuals to wear a cloth mask – whether they’re infected or not.

Listen to Professor Salim Abdool Karim

But wearing a mask is not as simple as just wrapping a piece of cloth around your face. If you don’t handle your cloth mask properly, you could be doing more harm than good. It’s therefore important to keep the following in mind when putting on, wearing and taking off your mask:
• Wash your hands with soap and water before handling the mask.
• Never touch the inside of your mask.
• Do not touch or fidget with your mask while wearing it.
• Do not remove your mask to speak to someone.
• When removing the mask, only take hold of the elastic bands or fabric ties. Do not touch the front or inside of the mask at all during removal.
• Wash the mask in hot water with soap immediately after taking it off – as the virus dies at higher temperatures. Do not place it on a table or leave it on a chair to wash later.
• Leave the mask out to dry.
• Once dry, iron the mask as the heat form the iron also helps to disinfect the mask.

** IMPORTANT: Government and health experts have implored citizens to NOT use surgical face masks as there is already a critical shortage nationwide (this includes N95, KN95, FFP2 and surgical masks). Our frontline workers, and those most vulnerable, need these masks and the general public should not buy these.

For more information, please contact Dr Colette on 021-919-9333.