Even as we approach the post-pandemic era, many of us are still having an on-and-off relationship with surgical face masks. This article will first discuss if masks are still necessary in present times, followed by a detailed recommendation of masks based on your circumstances and preferences.
The necessity of masks in the post-pandemic world
Universally, it is recommended for one to have their COVID-19 vaccines as well as their booster shots while actively masking to protect themselves against the virus. The urgency to wear a mask is heavily dependent on your chance of getting the virus and the infection rate within your community.
Some individuals may have a higher risk of developing a severe case of COVID-19, hence, they are strongly encouraged to mask up when they are outside. Those that identify with any of the following risk factors should stay extra cautious in these trying times:
- Unvaccinated individuals
- A person who is not fully vaccinated
- A person who is immunocompromised
- A person with existing health conditions (e.g. diabetes, high blood pressure)
- A person who is middle-aged or older
Do note that certain locations such as hospitals and airports require visitors to be masked when entering their vicinity. We encourage our readers to check their destination’s masking guidelines prior to travelling!
The right way to mask up
It is important to wear your face mask correctly to contain the spread of COVID-19. Readers are encouraged to follow these pointers as you wear your face masks:
- Washing your hands prior to masking up
- Mask should cover your mouth and nose
- Mask should fit perfectly against the sides of your face
- You can breathe easily in the mask
- Not touching the mask aside from its straps
Picking the right mask
Since there is a wide variety of face masks in the market, we have the luxury of choosing masks that best serve our needs. Generally, cloth masks and disposable surgical masks are safe choices that are able to protect you against the virus. When looking for a face mask for daily use, do look out for these features:
Fitting of the mask
A mask that fits well around your face helps to increase its efficacy. A well-fitted mask should leave no gaps on the sides of your face and the area around your nose.
Masks that come with a built-in nose wire tend to fit better on your face. One can also adjust the fit by knotting the mask straps too.
Thickness of the mask
For those that prefer disposable surgical masks, try to look for masks that are at least 3-ply. Whereas readers who prefer cloth masks should ensure that it is made of minimally two layers of fabric for adequate protection. To measure its efficacy, try placing the cloth mask under the light and check if it is able to block the light.
Certain types of face masks can also be layered to enhance protection. Cotton masks and surgical masks are compatible when combined together, but layering two surgical masks will decrease the overall protection instead.
Cleanliness and Dryness of mask
No matter the material, face masks need to be clean and dry to prevent any possible infection. Therefore, disposable surgical masks should be disposed of after use while cloth masks need to be washed daily. Special masks like N95 may be reused in selected situations too.
On the other hand, one should avoid wearing face masks that possess the following features:
Masks with vents/valves
These vents allow tiny particles to escape through, allowing more viruses to spread in the surroundings.
Masks made of unbreathable material
Materials such as vinyl tend to inhibit the wearer’s breathing and nothing can be more unpleasant than struggling to catch a breath.
As elaborated above on the importance of a mask’s thickness, one should avoid masks that are too thin as it lacks adequate protection.
Basic mask care
Reusable masks can go a long way if they are handled, stored and cleaned properly. Read on as we share with you simple mask care methods for different types of masks.
N95 respirators, KN95 and KF94 mask
When handling these masks, it is important to ensure your hands are clean to prevent the spread of viruses. After you are done with the mask, remove the mask carefully by the ear straps and avoid touching the front. These masks should be stored in a separate bag that keeps them away from your other belongings in view of contamination.
Before you put it on again, one should do a quick check for any rips or tears on the mask. In any possible scenario where the mask is touched, we strongly encourage our readers to wash their hands immediately to kill the germs.
Cloth masks can be cleaned thoroughly through both machine and hand washing.
The masks can be tossed into the washing machine and the dryer alongside your other laundry.
2. Hand washing
Start by mixing some disinfectant bleach in a tub of water then soaking the mask for at least five minutes. Once washed, air-dry the mask in direct sunlight to thoroughly disinfect it.
Additional masking tips
No matter the type of mask, it is a good practice to stock up on extra stashes of masks in your purse for any unforeseen circumstances.
We also encourage fashion-forward readers to venture out and experiment with masks that come in different colours and patterns too! Having a statement piece-worthy mask can definitely help to elevate your overall look.
With that, we’ve come to the end of this article! While the mask restriction and COVID-19 situation differ according to locations, masks will remain an essential item for the upcoming years as we enter the endemic phase. Thus, it is critical for one to understand the type of masks suitable for them depending on their needs and preferences. Finding the right mask will surely improve your experience living in the post-pandemic world and knowing how to maintain it will allow you to upkeep a more sustainable life while keeping your surroundings safe.