One Way You Should Never Wear Your Face Mask

Facial coverings are critical to abate the spread of COVID-19, but you have to do it the right way.

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By now, you've read a lot about face masks—which materials make a mask the most effective, which masks you shouldn't wear at all, and which direction your mask should go on your face. But chances are high you're still making one very egregious error when you wear your mask out in public. Henry Raymond, DrPH, an associate professor and epidemiologist at the Rutgers School of Public Health, and Amisha Malhotra, MD, an associate professor of pediatric infectious disease at the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, told NJ.com that unless you wear a mask that covers both your mouth and your nose, then the face covering is not doing its job.

When asked if a mask is effective when you wear it just below your nose, the doctors said: "No. A mask is not effective if it is worn below the nose, because respiratory droplets come from sneezing as well as coughing."

mask not covering nose
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Wearing a mask or face covering has been proven by medical and public health experts as an effective way to slow the spread of COVID-19. Expert projections have even been updated to show that, if everyone were to wear a mask, tens of thousands of lives would be saved. But unless everyone is wearing a mask the correct way—over their mouth and nose—it's less worth the effort.

"Nasal secretions can contain the coronavirus in an infected person, and covering the nose can help prevent transmission since the virus can infect an individual by entry through the nasal passages," the doctors continued. "This means that if you sneeze into the open air, you can put another person at risk of being exposed to your germs. Moreover, wearing a mask over your nose not only helps others from you potentially transmitting the coronavirus, but it decreases the risk of you—the mask-wearer—from contracting it as well."

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A June study from researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill further explains why it's pivotal that your face mask covers your nose. The findings, published in the journal Cell, suggest that the virus tends to become firmly established first in the nasal cavity. Study co-senior author Richard Boucher, director of the Marsico Lung Institute at the UNC School of Medicine, MD, said in a statement that "if the nose is the dominant initial site from which lung infections are seeded, then the widespread use of masks to protect the nasal passages" is all the more important. And for more mask facts to get to know, check out 10 Myths About Face Masks You Need to Know.

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