The novel coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2 causes COVID-19. A person with COVID-19 may have mild symptoms while others may suffer from difficulty breathing or even respiratory failure.
Anybody can have COVID-19 but the elderly and those with underlying conditions have the highest risk for severe illness.
COVID-19 spreads through respiratory droplets that travel in the air when an infected person speaks, coughs, or sings. If you are carrying the virus, these droplets can get into the mouths and noses of those near you.
A surgical mask provides a barrier from respiratory droplets that could reach others and cause infection. Studies show that wearing a surgical mask over the mouth and nose reduces the spray of droplets carrying the virus.
Surgical masks are disposable and are often rectangular and flat. A surgical mask has pleats while its top has a metal strip that can be formed to the shape of your nose. It is held in place by elastic bands. You can loop the bands behind the ears or tie them behind the head.
When to wear a surgical mask
You have to wear a surgical mask even if you feel all right. Studies have discovered that people with COVID-19 can still spread the virus even if they are asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic (not displaying any symptoms yet). Wearing a surgical mask protects people around you in case you are asymptomatic and have no idea about the infection.
Who needs a surgical mask?
Adults and kids aged 2 years and older need to wear a surgical mask when outside the house or meeting people from another household.
If you have COVID-19 or think you may have the disease, use a surgical mask when you are near people or animals. A surgical mask is needed even if you are in your own house.
Who should not wear a surgical mask
It is not advisable for someone with difficulty breathing to wear a surgical mask or any type of face mask. An unconscious individual or anybody who could not remove a cloth or surgical mask without any help should not wear one too. People with cognitive or behavioral problems may not tolerate wearing a surgical mask and are therefore better off without it. Alternatives should be considered for these individuals.
Wearing and removing a surgical mask properly
Surgical masks help trap respiratory secretions that may cause infection. Here are easy steps to properly put on and remove a surgical mask:
- Wash your hands with soap and water. You may also use an alcohol-based sanitizer.
- Inspect the surgical mask for any damages. Don’t use a surgical mask that has holes or tears.
- Look for the metal strip at the top of the surgical mask.
- Face the colored side of the surgical mask outward.
- Put the top of the surgical mask on your nose and mold the metal strip to follow the shape of your nose.
- Loop elastic bands behind the ears. Pull the bottom of the surgical mask so that it covers your chin, mouth, and nose.
- Try not to touch the surgical mask while wearing it. If you need to touch it, make sure to wash your hands after.
- Unloop the elastic bands from behind the ears. Do not touch the front of your surgical mask to avoid contamination. Take the mask off.
- Dispose of the surgical mask in a closed trash bin. Clean your hands immediately after.
Where to get your surgical mask
The internet is the best place for you to get a surgical mask if you are in Europe. The steady rise of COVID-19 cases in many European countries means that the virus is very much around. Shopping online is a good way to buy your surgical mask without exposure to potentially infected individuals.
You can also get your surgical mask from a pharmacy or grocery store. If you live near a shop that sells surgical masks and other PPEs, pay a visit to the shop and see if they have good-quality surgical masks sold at reasonable prices.
Other ways to prevent transmission of SARS-CoV-2
Besides wearing a surgical mask to prevent COVID-19, you should also wash your hands with soap and water. You may also use an alcohol-based sanitizer if your hands are not visibly soiled.
Experts always mention the need for social distancing so do your best to follow their recommendation. If you need to go out, wear your surgical mask, and stay away from crowded places. Avoid people who are ill and those who don’t wear face masks. It is also important to avoid touching your face when your hands are dirty.
What to do when looking after a COVID-19 patient
If there are family members at home who have COVID-19, it is all the more important for them to wear a surgical mask. Isolate them in a separate room and bathroom if possible. Prepare a box of surgical masks that they can use, especially when around other people. If a surgical mask makes breathing harder, you may wear the surgical mask instead while caring for them or while in the same room. Wash your hands regularly using soap and water or clean them with hand sanitizer. Avoid touching your face if your hands are not clean.
Wearing a surgical mask when visiting public places or looking after a sick family member at home is an important yet easy step in preventing COVID-19 transmission. By keeping a few surgical masks or an entire box at home, you are always ready to protect yourself and your family from SARS-CoV-2.