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How to Wear a Face Mask

Posted on 27 June, 2020

Today I really want to talk about masks. I don't wish to patronise anyone out there and it might be that you know what you're doing, but I have seen some very, very strange practices out there.  I have to say I have been guilty of sniggering at one or two. The man I saw at the bus stop recently wearing a pair of gloves, smoking a fag with his mask hanging around his chin, was one. But you know what? The reason I am doing this is because it's occurred to me that it is no wonder that people are getting this wrong. We have never done this before! If you live somewhere like Hong Kong or Singapore or China, wearing masks is a really normal practice to prevent the spread of colds and flus and viruses. But for us in the UK- this is culturally not what we do. We are British, we're tough, we're strong. We get on with it. We have never done this stuff before. So I have looked around and laughed a little bit, and then I thought to myself, actually, that's really unfair, because how the hell are people supposed to know what to do? I went and trained to work at the Nightingale during the peak of the outbreak. You might not know this, I’ll let you into a secret – us nurses and doctors have to be trained in how to put on PPE. You don't just walk in and put it on. There's a way to put it on (donning). There's a way to take it off (doffing). This is not something that you just instinctively know because you are ‘medical’. In the same way, you don't instinctively know how to wear a mask properly – why would you? What’s more is that nobody seems to be telling you! So I hope that this might be helpful. I had a quick check on the latest government guidance, as it stands, we are being asked to cover our faces if we are unable to maintain the two meter distancing (mainly supermarkets) and mandated to wear on public transport. What you are actually doing when you're covering your face, is that you are actually protecting other people as opposed to yourself. So the idea of covering your face and mask is that you are filtering out possibly some of the bacteria, viral matter exhaled from your lungs. The Department of Health website, has instruction on how to make a face covering using a T shirt, please refer to that should you wish to make yourself a face covering. The first mistake I have noted of peo0le wearing masks or face coverings is that it should cover both your nose & mouth – not one or the other. Once you have your mask in place and you really don't want to touch it or interfere with it until you are taking it off. The problem with touching is that each time you put your hands onto the central part of your mask, this area is all now moist and wet and providing a lovely area for viruses and bacteria. It's really close to your mouth, which is a lovely gateway to let all these nasty things in. And you're now touching it with your dirty hands. So that's the point. You want to put your mask on by holding it at the edges. You need to leave it in place for the entirety of whatever it is you're doing, be it traveling to work on the Tube, getting your shopping, whatever it is. When you arrive at your destination, you want to try and remove it without touching the front. Before you put your mask on, you wash your hands, and as soon as you take your mask off, you wash your hands.    It's not pleasant wearing something over your nose and mouth. And as I said, especially for us Brits, we're not used to it. We've never done it before. So it feels really strange. When you communicate with people and you talk to people, what generally happens is that your eyes will flip between their mouth and their eyes, just little micro-movements, as you're talking. So we look in people's eyes for their expressions and kind of nonverbal cues. We also look at people's mouths moving as they're talking. And that just helps us pick up on what it is they're saying. We just do that automatically, especially more if somebody is not the same nationality as us, or they have got an unusual accent or their speech isn't very clear for whatever reason, we might do it even more. We don't know them. For example, when you're in a supermarket and you're asking for something, your natural instinct is going to be to pull it down because that's how you communicate. So I think another thing that can be helpful is instead of just putting this on the second you step outside, if you're going back to work or you're going to come and see me at some point hopefully, it can be a good idea just to wear this around the house a little bit, get used to the feel of it because it is irritating. Like I said, it's annoying. It's something you're not used to. So actually wearing it a little bit around the house, getting used to the feel of it, getting used to speaking with it there. I mean, you could even ring someone and get accustomed to that. To summarise when you're out and about you put your mask on, you keep it on for the entirety of whatever it is that you're doing. When you get home, when you reach your office, wherever it is that you're off to, you take it off without touching the front. That is going to keep you as safe as possible, if you're choosing to wear a mask. But if you are constantly fiddling with it the whole time it's on, then you are actually giving yourself a false sense of security, and you're actually increasing your risk of ending up with something nasty going into your system. Like I said, it doesn't make you stupid if you haven't thought of any of this before. This is all brand new so why would you know? Why would anybody know what the point is? I get the feeling a lot of people wearing masks think they're wearing them to protect themselves. So if you want to make something, you can have a look at the government website. It's got a little step by step on how to make your own face covering. You can literally use a scarf, use something to wrap around your mouth and your nose. You don't need to be buying surgical type masks. It's really a waste of money. I really strongly recommend you don't do that.