When (And Why) Should I Wear A Mask?

When (And Why) Should I Wear A Mask?

It has been years since the US lifted several nationwide mask mandates. In most public places, wearing a mask is highly recommended but no longer mandatory by the letter of the law. Meanwhile, private institutions like healthcare facilities can enforce their own mask rules, at their own discretion. There are also situations where wearing a mask is the correct thing to do, regardless of any laws or rules. When exactly should you wear a mask? Does this even concern you? To find out, read below to learn more.

When do you HAVE to wear a mask?

 Even if there are no facility rules you have to follow, there are certain situations where wearing a mask is simply the right thing to do.

If you are infected with respiratory diseases, or recently came into contact with someone who was wearing a mask is mandatory. COVID-19, pneumococcal pneumonia, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are just a couple examples of highly infectious respiratory illnesses. All three diseases can be easily spread by coughing, breathing or sneezing at the direction of a person. In situations where you cannot stay inside to recover, going outside with a mask drastically reduces the chances of you spreading your germs to unsuspecting strangers.

Even if you cannot confirm that you have a respiratory disease, it is still recommended to keep your mask on when you are meeting up with vulnerable populations. This includes children under the age of 5, elderly adults over 50, pregnant people, and individuals with autoimmune conditions. It may seem inconvenient, but it is better to err on the side of caution. Getting infected may prove especially costly for these demographics, so minimizing any risk is highly preferable. If you fall under any of these demographics, that provides an even greater reason for you to stay masked.

In very specific circumstances, you may be required to wear masks due to environmental hazards. A common example of this is poor air quality, which can prove to be harmful after prolonged maskless exposure. Pollution, volcanic ash, and wildfires are just a handful of environmental factors that can lead to worsening air quality.

What are the best masks to wear?

Certain masks provide better filtration and protection than others. Though all four are perfectly acceptable, below are common mask variants from highest quality to lowest (relatively.)

  • N95s
  • KN95s and KF94s
  • Surgical masks
  • Cloth/fabric masks

How do I put on my mask?

Simply putting on your mask is not enough. You want to wear it properly, to maximize its protection. The World Health Organization recommends taking the following steps, to ensure that you are getting the most out of your mask:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly before wearing a mask.
  • Use fresh, clean masks whenever possible. If you have to reuse a mask, store it in a clean plastic bag or wash thoroughly (if fabric.)
  • Be sure it covers your entire nose, mouth, and chin area.

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