Wherever you go, you will see people wearing face masks. Face masks have turned into necessities for most of us. Medical workers, frontline staff, and ordinary citizens all wear face masks to protect them from the novel coronavirus.
People no longer ask if they need to use a face mask. By now everyone already knows the answer. What they want to know is the kind of face mask they should use and whether they have to use a face mask while driving.
Do you need a face mask while driving?
Perhaps you’ve seen people wearing cloth, surgical, or N95 masks while driving. Now you’re wondering if you should use one too. Although a mask is essential in preventing the spread of COVID-19, you don’t have to wear one when you are alone in a vehicle.
Cloth, surgical and N95 masks help minimize other’s exposure to your respiratory droplets when you talk, cough, or sneeze. If there’s no one in the car with you, there’s no need to use a face mask.
A surgical or N95 mask may reduce your visual field so it is advisable to take it off when you are alone in the car. If you have passengers, it is necessary to put your surgical or N95 mask on.
Although your passengers may wear a surgical or N95 mask to protect them from airborne particles in the car, it is still best to avoid traveling with individuals who don’t live in the same household.
If you need to travel with others, wear a surgical or N95 mask, and keep the windows open. You may also set the car’s ventilation to non-recirculation mode.
Keep in mind that if you are not feeling well or you have been in close contact with anyone who has COVID-19, you should stay home as much as possible. Avoid traveling except to see a doctor. This way, you will not spread the virus in case you have it.
Additionally, you should always wear your face mask properly. If you prefer to use an N95 mask, be sure to wear it properly and check for an air seal. Read on below to know how to wear your N95 mask correctly and how to perform a user seal check.
How to wear an N95 mask
Wash your hands before handling any type of face mask, whether cloth, surgical, or N95 mask. If you have worn an N95 mask before, use the same brand, model, and size. Check the N95 mask for any signs of damage such as tears and holes. Do not use a soiled or damaged N95 mask.
Make sure that facial hair, jewelry, glasses, or clothing will not come between your face and the N95 mask. These things affect facial fit and make the N95 mask less efficient.
To put on an N95 mask, follow these steps:
- Hold the N95 mask with the nose piece placed at the tips of your fingers.
- Cup the N95 mask and let headbands fall below your hand. Put the N95 mask under the chin.
- Pull the top strap of the N95 mask and put it above the ears and around the crown of the head.
- Pull the bottom strap and put it below the ears and around your neck.
- Put your fingers on the metal nose clip of the N95 mask and mold it over your nose bridge and cheeks to have a tight seal.
Check your N95 mask for a proper fit
- Put both hands over your N95 mask without disturbing its position on your face.
- Inhale quickly and feel the N95 mask sealing tightly to your face.
- Put your hands completely over the N95 mask and exhale. You should feel a positive pressure inside the N95 mask. If there is any leakage, it means you have not achieved a proper seal.
- In case of an air leak, adjust the N95 mask by putting additional pressure on the nose clip, adjusting the straps, or adjusting the position of the entire N95 mask.
If you still cannot achieve a good seal, look for a different N95 mask. Pick a different size or model this time. Do not use an N95 mask that has air leaks because you may falsely believe that you are fully protected.
Other ways to drive safely during the COVID-19 pandemic
- Before leaving, wash your hands with soap and water. When you arrive at your destination, wash your hands immediately. Use soap and water or an alcohol-based sanitizer.
- Do not touch your face with dirty hands. Also, never touch your surgical or N95 mask once it’s been worn.
- If it is necessary to drive during this pandemic, prepare a kit for each passenger. It should contain an alcohol-based hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes.
- Disinfect frequently touched surfaces like the steering wheel, windows, doors, gear shifts, and seat belts.
- Do not touch the front of the N95 mask when removing it. Remove the N95 mask by pulling the straps. Discard the N95 mask properly and wash your hands thoroughly.
Wearing a face mask is necessary while driving when you have passengers that do not belong to your household. Although you may wear a cloth or surgical mask, an N95 mask offers the best protection among the three. An N95 mask also has the highest filter efficiency.
An N95 mask filters out 95 percent of airborne particles that may be in your surroundings. However, using an N95 mask does not automatically provide protection from COVID-19. You need to achieve a close facial fit without any air leaks when using an N95 mask.
If you are at high risk from COVID-19, staying at home is the best thing to do. If you ever need to leave the house and drive a car with several other passengers, prepare your N95 mask and other trip essentials. Wear your N95 mask properly, do a user seal check and practice other safety measures to minimize your risk of getting COVID-19.