Wearing a mask reduces the risk of catching COVID-19 and of an infected person spreading it to others, but only if it’s worn in the correct way.
Whether you are using a fabric mask or a disposable one, there are things you can do to ensure you are maximising the protection they offer.
Here are some tips to help you wear your mask safely:
1. Safety first
Masks shouldn’t be worn by young children or anyone who can’t remove them without assistance. They also shouldn’t be worn by people who have trouble breathing.
2. Wash your hands
Wash your hands thoroughly before you put your face mask on, before you take it off and after you’ve removed it.
3. Check the condition
Check your mask is clean and dry – don’t ever use a damp mask. Don’t use it if it’s damaged, dirty or soiled. After each use, fabric masks should be put into an enclosed bag then washed with detergent and hot water. Disposable masks should be used once then disposed of in a rubbish bin with a closed lid.
4. Hold it by the straps
Hold your mask by the straps when handling it. When you put it on and take it off, do so by holding onto the straps only. Avoid touching the mask itself as this could contaminate it.
5. Wear it the right way up
Check to see if you are wearing it the right way up. The top of the mask is where the stiff edge or metal wire/piece is. If it’s disposable, the coloured side should face outwards.
6. Cover your nose, mouth and chin
The mask should cover your nose, mouth and chin and fit snugly. Wearing it over your mouth only will not provide protection. Don’t hang it around your neck or dangle it from your ear.
7. Don’t touch your mask
Once you have your mask on, avoid touching it or fiddling with it as you could spread germs from your hands onto the mask.
8. Don’t share your mask
Sharing your mask with someone else is a guaranteed way to spread the virus and any other germs that may be lurking on the surface of the mask. Make sure you have a good supply of masks at the ready, so you aren’t caught short.
Remember, a mask alone can’t protect you from catching or spreading COVID-19. You must also make sure you stay home if you are unwell, wash your hands frequently, get a COVID-19 test if you have any symptoms, maintain social distancing where required and sneeze or cough into your elbow.
Ngā uwhi mata me ngā ārai/Face coverings and masks (Te reo Māori) Unite Against Covid-19, NZ, 2020
- COVID-19: Use of masks and face coverings in the community Ministry of Health, NZ