7 Precautions You Must Take Before Wearing a Mask

There are still some very basic steps that you may be missing when putting on your mask.

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So many of us are depending on masks to keep us safe these days, but if you're not taking the proper precautions when using your mask, you could be putting yourself at risk. By now, most of us have procured a proper non-surgical mask and have been using it regularly over the course of the past month or more. But there are still some very basic steps that you may be missing when putting on your mask. To help you out, we talked with experts for the essential mask precautions you must take each and every time you put yours on.

1
Wash your hands.

black woman washing hands at sink
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It's common knowledge by now that during the coronavirus pandemic, you should be washing your hands well and often. But if you're not scrubbing up before putting your mask on, you're making a big mistake. "Your hands should be washed before handling and after use to prevent germs from spreading to [your] eyes, mouth, and the face mask," says Will Hampson, a health and safety expert in the U.K. The last thing you want is to accidentally contaminate the item that is supposed to protect you. And for more ways you're secretly cross-contaminating, check out 11 Ways You're Spreading Germs All Over Your Home Without Realizing It.

2
Check for tears or holes.

Person looking for holes or tears in their face mask
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According to the San Fransisco Department of Public Health, before putting on a mask, users should check for holes or tears first. If a hole in your mask goes unnoticed, it could be letting in unwanted germs through the opening, which would negate the purpose of the mask and make you more susceptible to COVID-19. And for tips on when it's time to get a new mask, check out 7 Signs You Need to Replace Your Face Mask ASAP.

3
Determine which is the front, back, top, and bottom of your mask.

Learning how to put on a mask properly
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Before the coronavirus pandemic, most people were unfamiliar with wearing face masks, so it's worth pointing out that there are correct and incorrect ways to use a mask. The San Francisco Department of Public Health suggests you figure out which edge of the mask should be at the top and which side of the mask is the front. Figuring out the correct orientation of the mask helps ensure that it will do its job properly.

4
Try on your mask.

Senior man putting on a protective mask for coronavirus at home
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"People who have never used these before will find it hard to wear and may feel claustrophobic," says Hampson. Because of that, novice mask wearers should give themselves some time to adjust to their mask at home so that they don't feel uncomfortable while walking outside. That way, you don't equate any breathing changes while wearing your mask with a COVID-19 symptom. And to learn which mask you should avoid entirely, check out This Is the One Type of Mask You Should Never Wear.

5
Touch your mask by the ties or loops.

Woman trying on a mask
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Dimitar Marinov, MD, a medical expert working on the control and prevention of infectious diseases, previously told Best Life that you should "never touch the inside or outside of your mask." Instead, put it on and remove it using only the ties or loops, he says.

6
Adjust your mask before you leave the house.

Woman making sure mask is comfortable before wearing
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Masks are not the most comfortable accessory, but before heading out the door, you should make sure your mask is comfortable enough that you won't be tempted to fuss with it. "The last thing you would want is to be adjusting the mask outdoors as hands will contaminate the outside of the mask after, say, you open a shop door," Hampson points out. Take some time to pinch and poke your mask into the most comfortable position for your face before wearing it outside. And if you can't get a mask, check out 5 Household Items to Use as Face Mask Alternatives.

7
Store it in a paper bag.

Paper bag on counter
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When you're done wearing your mask, you should not put it in plastic bag, according to Ashley Roxanne Peterson, DO, a resident physician in Atlanta, Georgia.

"Many people are inappropriately storing their masks in plastic bags when it should be paper bags," she previously told Best Life. Paper bags "increase the breathability of the storage bag and reduce infectious growth."

Best Life is constantly monitoring the latest news as it relates to COVID-19 in order to keep you healthy, safe, and informed. Here are the answers to your most burning questions, the ways you can stay safe and healthy, the facts you need to know, the risks you should avoid, the myths you need to ignore,and the symptoms to be aware of. Click here for all of our COVID-19 coverage, and sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.
Allie Hogan
Allie Hogan is a Brooklyn based writer currently working on her first novel. Read more
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