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Washing to disposal: All you need to know about face masks

It is recommended that you do not share face masks. A particular mask should be used by one individual only.

A lot of places have made wearing of face masks mandatory in public places. The state governments of Delhi and Mumbai also recently announced that they would take action against those stepping outdoors without wearing it. But it is not just about wearing the mask, one should also ensure safety and hygiene by keeping in mind the rules of using it correctly.

Here’s all you need to know about face masks:

1. Should you wear a face mask?

According to World Health Organisation (WHO), you should wear a mask if you are sick, coughing and sneezing, or taking care of a person with suspected COVID-19 infection. The Health Ministry also issued an advisory suggesting that one could also wear a homemade cloth face mask for maintaining personal hygiene.

2. What mask should you wear?

Health workers or those who are in contact with COVID-19 patients are recommended to wear N95 or triple-layer surgical masks, read the Health Ministry guidelines. Disposable masks should be used only once. Others who are not suffering from medical conditions or are having breathing difficulties can wear reusable face masks made at home.

3. How do you make face masks at home?

You can make a mask at home, with or without a sewing machine, by following the guidelines issued by the Health Ministry. Make sure the cloth you are using to make the mask is washed and dried properly before stitching.

4. How many masks should you have?

The Health Ministry recommends keeping two sets of face masks at home so that one can be washed while the other is being used.

5. What are things to keep in mind when you wear a mask?

Before putting on the mask, wash your hands properly for 20 seconds with soap and water or an alcohol-based sanitiser. Make sure it fits around your face perfectly, covering the mouth and nose completely. Avoid touching the mask as much as possible; touch only with clean hands. Do not touch the outer surface of the mask while removing it. After removing it, wash your hands again with soap and water or a sanitiser, advises WHO.

6. How long can you wear a mask for?

Dr Ravi Shekhar Jha, HOD, pulmonology, Fortis Escorts Faridabad told, “Triple-layer surgical masks can be used for up to six hours. Surgical masks are not reusable. N95 masks can be reused for up to five days, provided we sterilise it properly via dry heating. Homemade masks can be used for up to 16 hours.” Single-use masks should not be worn more than once. As soon as it is damp, replace it with a new one, suggests WHO.

Read| Smriti Irani shows how to stitch a face mask at home

7. How do you wash masks?

Face masks should not be kept lying around in the house but stored safely. They should be routinely washed depending on the frequency of use, recommends Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Wash the mask properly with soap and hot water and dry it well before putting it on, according to the Health Ministry. Surgical and N95 masks should not be washed, said Dr Jha. Only cloth masks can be washed.

8. Should you share your mask with other family members?

It is recommended that you do not share face masks. A particular mask should be used by one individual only.

9. Where should you dispose the mask after use?

The mask should be disposed in a closed bin, says WHO.

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