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This Face Mask Mistake Is Worse Than No Mask at All

Face masks have been proven to prevent you from getting—and spreading—COVID-19. But these mistakes can make you sick.

As a doctor and laboratory manager in the COVID-19 space, I know that there's a thin line between you remaining healthy and you catching coronavirus. This thin line can often be exemplified by the mask on your face. It's a proven fact that masks work. However, they don't work if you're wearing one incorrectly. Here are some face masks that can be worse than no mask at all. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss this urgent news: Here's How You Can Catch COVID Even If You're Vaccinated


Not Covering Your Nose

woman in a medical mask on her face during the pandemic outdoors

You should always make sure that your nose is covered when you wear your mask, as not doing so would defeat the point of the mask. If your nose is not covered you expose yourself to the risk of catching the virus by breathing in the air particles that may contain COVID-19. Also, when you sneeze you expose other people to the particles coming out from your sneeze. The mask should be placed on carefully, ensuring that it covers mouth and nose, before adjusting it to the nose bridge. It should be tied in securely to minimise any gaps between the face and mask. It should not be sitting above the chin, as it may easily slide off when you speak or breath.


Wearing Too Loose or Too Tight Mask

Middle aged employee fitting protective mask on her face

Masks come in a variety of sizes and types so you need to make sure that your mask fits well on your face. It shouldn't be so tight that restricts you from normal breathing. If the mask is too loose and the edges of the mask are not close to the face, internal and external air penetrates through the edges of the mask rather than being filtered through the fabric. The air needs to be filtered through the mask and not leak through the edges. 


Not Practicing Hand Hygiene

Woman Washing her hands with soap and water at home bathroom

It is very important to wash your hands before putting the mask on and after removing it. If you don't wash your hands and touch the mask with contaminated hands, your mask will be contaminated as well and you may catch the virus. If you remove your mask and you don't wash your hands, the virus that could potentially land on the surface of the mask from the air particles can contaminate your hands. If you touch your mouth or nose with contaminated hands the virus may penetrate through your nose and mouth and cause infection. You can also contaminate with the virus any surface you touch with your dirty hands.

If you can't wash your hands for any reason, you can always use an alcohol-based hand gel instead.


Touching and Adjusting Your Mask Frequently

woman wearing a hygiene protective mask to protect her self from coronavirus disease

Once the mask is on, try to do not touch it. This helps avoid contamination of your mask and your hands. You should prevent yourself from constantly adjusting your mask. If you feel you need to, then you may need to ensure you have a correct size and shape. 


Using a Damaged Mask or Reusing Disposable Masks

Coronavirus face mask protection

Never use a damaged mask. Always check if straps are tight and secure and if there are no holes in the mask. Check whether your mask is medical, washable or single-use. Single-use masks should be disposed of after each use. 


Removing the Mask When Talking

Women with face masks down

Pulling down the mask when talking to others defeats the purpose of wearing a mask. It has been proven that talking to a friend when infected with coronavirus could be as dangerous as coughing near them.  Speaking produces much finer particles, which can be suspended for over an hour in the amounts sufficient to cause infection. 


Sharing Your Mask

Man Holding Medical Face Mask in Front of Face

Never share your face mask with anyone, even with people within your household. You can catch the virus from the mask previously worn by a person infected with COVID-19. 

RELATED: Most COVID Patients Did This Before Getting Sick


Removing Your Mask to Cough or Sneeze

Woman removing face mask from her face outdoors.

A single cough produces approximately 3000 respiratory droplets, while a sneeze releases around 40.000 (September review published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine). It is the purpose of the mask to prevent spread of these droplets through the air and infect other people. Also, it is the purpose of the mask to stop any particles to penetrate our mucosal surfaces and initiate infection. Coughing and sneezing in the mask is not nice and it is not guaranteed that a mask will capture every respiratory droplet. However, you need to keep your mask on if you are inside, use a tissue as an extra protective layer outside of the mask or your elbow as a backup. Make sure you carry extra masks with you so you can change them frequently. 


Removing the Mask Incorrectly

woman touching the nose of her surgical face mask while outside

You should use the appropriate technique for removing a face mask. Avoid touching the front of the mask. Take it off by unlooping or untying it from the ears. Always wash your hands after removal or touching the front of the mask. And to stay safe, also social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, get vaccinated when it becomes available to you, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Monika Stuczen, MD
Dr. Monika Stuczen is R&D and QC Laboratory Manager at Medical Wire & Equipment Ltd. Read more about Monika