Initially optional, once the National Department of Health announced the mandatory wearing of masks when out in public on 1 May last year, we had to accept that masks would be part of our daily reality for the foreseeable future. Their decision followed revised reports from the World Health Organization (WHO), which updates recommendations based on new scientific findings as the epidemic evolves.

Wearing a mask, washing hands frequently, and social distancing remain vital even once patients have received the Covid-19 vaccination [Image: Freepik].

The spread of COVID-19 is mainly via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza and other respiratory pathogens spread. Therefore, wearing a face mask is an added prevention measure to help limit community transmission of the virus.

FEATURES TO LOOK OUT FOR IN A MASK

The ideal mask will allow for the easy flow of air (breathable) but will prevent the spread of droplets through it (impermeable). Other important features:

  • Hypo-allergenic (prevent allergy problems, and irritation to sensitive skin).
  • Recyclable
  • High filtration capacity
  • Adjustable nose strip
  • Non-toxic
  • Water-proof
  • Anti-tear and pull
  • SANS certified (South Africa National Standard)

MYTH: Wearing masks can cause CO2 poisoning

The prolonged use of medical masks can be uncomfortable. However, it does not lead to CO2 intoxication nor oxygen deficiency. While wearing a medical mask, make sure it fits properly and that it is tight enough to allow you to breathe normally.

FACT: People should NOT wear masks while exercising

According to the WHO, people should not wear masks when exercising, as masks may reduce the ability to breathe comfortably. Sweat can make the mask become wet more quickly which makes it difficult to breathe and promotes the growth of microorganisms. The important preventive measure during exercise is to maintain physical distance of at least one meter from others.

IMPORTANT THINGS TO REMEMBER

  • Face masks should never be touched when wearing them – fidgeting with the mask repeatedly is strongly discouraged as it is important to avoid touching your face with hands.
  • Do not lower the face mask when speaking, coughing, or sneezing.
  • The inner side of the face mask should not be touched with hands.
  • Face masks should cover your nose and mouth entirely
  • Do not re-use a disposable mask and always change it as soon as it gets damp.