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Do's and Don'ts of Wearing Masks for COVID-19

July 17, 2020
Do’s and Don’ts of Wearing Masks for COVID-19 - Lark Health

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Wearing masks is becoming the norm for millions of Americans. Evidence for its effectiveness is growing. Recent studies have shown masks to be highly effective at both protecting others and at reducing your risk of getting COVID-19 by more than 65%. Here are some do's and don'ts of masks.

Do wear it properly.

A mask's effectiveness depends on it being worn properly. Masks need to cover the mouth and nose and be tied or looped behind the head or ears so it is snug. The CDC recommends that masks be worn every time you go into public and may come into contact with one or more people outside of your household.

Don't judge.

If you are a believer in masks, it may be natural to get upset when you see someone who is not wearing one, or visa versa. Before passing judgement, it may be wise to pause and take a breath. Some people should not or cannot wear masks, and the reasons why they cannot are not always visible, such as breathing problems. We're all in this together, so let's stay positive and do our best.

Don't substitute it for social distancing.

Masks are meant to be worn in addition to following other safety measures to reduce COVID-19 transmission, including social distancing. According to UC Davis [1], "social distancing reduces the risk of transmitting the virus by 90 percent, and wearing masks decreases the risk by 65 percent." Keeping your 6-foot distance from everyone outside of your household and staying away from large groups of people are just as important as wearing a mask, if not more so.

Do love your mask.

Masks may be around for a while. Why not enjoy them? They can be custom made, or ordered from a favorite brand or organization, such as a university or professional sports team. Masks made specifically for kids can be cute and even be interactive if kids color their own! Amazon.com, among many other retailers, offers great mask options such as patriot masks or colored masks.

Do keep it on.

To keep your mask on, you may need to fight the urge to take it off when talking to people, since masks do muffle your voice and make it more difficult to make yourself heard. 

Don't assume you're not sick.

If you are wearing a mask to protect others, don't skip wearing one even if you don't think you're sick. Nearly one-third of COVID-19 transmissions are estimated to be from asymptomatic people. That means it's possible to be sick and transmit the disease without knowing it.

Don't get caught empty-handed.

You do not want to drive to a store, park, and walk to the entrance only to discover that you forgot your mask and cannot enter the store! Instead, it may be a good idea to have extra masks in the car, at your home, and in your purse or pocket. That way, you can always have one when you need one. Plus, if you accidentally adjust your mask with an unclean hand or glove, you can just swap it for a clean one.

Do keep trying.

Wearing a mask is less comfortable than not wearing a mask. Masks are least comfortable when you are not used to them and when they are the wrong type for you. Starting by wearing a mask for only a few minutes at a time can help your face get used to the feeling. 

If the mask you try is uncomfortable, one with another material, size, or style may be comfortable. 

Don't worry about not having an N-95 mask.

Though N95 masks may be the type of mask to offer the wearer the most protection, they are in short supply even healthcare professionals who need them most. In addition, they may not be as effective as other masks in protecting others.

In contrast, cloth masks and other face coverings, such as bandannas, can go a long way in protecting others as well as yourself[2]. According to CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield, "Cloth face coverings are one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus."[3

Do be respectful.

If someone or a company asks you to wear a mask, and you do not have any health condition that prevents you from wearing one, the courteous thing to do is to wear one. This may be upon entering a store or restaurant, for example. Whether or not current local rules back up the person's request, wearing a mask can make others feel safer, especially if they're immunocompromised or have an underlying health condition, or live with someone who has such a condition, because for them, contracting the virus could be truly deadly.

Do stay active.

If you're exercising outdoors and social distancing, you generally don't need to wear a mask, so stay active and enjoy the summer! And remember to check in with Lark after your walk/run/workout for some friendly tips as you work to hit your health goals.

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