This Is the Worst Thing You Do Every Time You Go Outside

Don't risk cross-contamination by adjusting your face mask while in public.

As you leave your house wearing your mask, ready to stay socially distanced from everyone you encounter, you probably feel pretty confident that you are doing everything you can to keep yourself safe. However, you may be making one crucial mistake without even realizing it: adjusting your mask while you're outside of your home, which puts you at risk of cross-contamination.

"Cross-contamination occurs when someone touches under their mask or touches someone or a surface—a door handle, a box, or a can in the grocery store—and then touches their mask," Ruth Bush, MD, told Today.

If you're like most people, this is likely the first time in your life that you've worn something covering your nose and mouth as often as you do now. So, it's no surprise that it takes some getting used to. However, no matter how uncomfortable it may feel or how tempted you are to make various adjustments while it's on your face, the World Health Organization says to "avoid touching the mask while using it" whenever possible. And if you do have to touch it, "clean your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water." This is to prevent potential virus particles from transferring from your mask to your hands, eyes, nose, or mouth.

Young boy adjusting mask

While you're out, the purpose of the mask may slip your mind for a moment, but that split second could put you at risk.

"Don't reach for a product in the store and then reach up and adjust your mask," warns Bush. "Avoid reaching under your mask if you have an itch." And George Anesi, MD, also speaking to Today, adds that "a mask is less helpful or counterproductive if it requires frequent adjustment."

To avoid frequent adjustment, it is important to find a mask that has a comfortable fit, which will help limit your temptation to touch it while you're out. Before leaving your house, take a moment to adjust your mask when you first put it on, making sure to wash your hands before and after. And remember, proper mask care and protocol are essential to its effectiveness. For more mistakes you should avoid, check out 7 Things You Should Never Be Doing With Your Face Mask.

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