Masks - How to effectively protect yourself with a mask

By Jose Caloca

Masks - How to effectively protect yourself with a mask

At the beginning of the pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) did not consider the use of the mask mandatory or necessary. The WHO in a first instance only recommended the usage of a mask only for infected people, either with COVID-19 or another pathology.

However, with the passing of the months and regrowth of cases in of Europe, the World Health Organization has recognized that the correct usage of a mask contributes to reducing the contagion line of COVID-19 and, therefore, in several countries it has been established the mandatory measure of wearing a mask in public places.

Although we know that this is a biosecurity measure, we must know the types of masks available to prevent getting infected, the correct usage and the effectiveness of the masks. In this article, you will learn how to correctly use a mask and protect yourself successfully.


What is a mask?

A face mask is a protective covering for the face, nose and mouth. It intends to protect people from germs, viruses, gases and dust when worn. Depending on the material in which they are made their functionalities may vary. They are mostly made for medical and industry-related purposes in order to keep people isolated from particles, bacteria or viruses in the air.


Why should I wear a mask?

Wearing a mask in an individual protection measure that will help to keep those unwanted particles and microorganisms in the air away. The massive usage of a mask in public places is one of the measures applied by governments around the world to reduce the cases of COVID-19, in addition, in order to this measure to be successful, it must be accompanied by other regulations such as social distancing and regular hand washing.


How do they work?

Thanks to the polypropylene and / or cotton material, in the case of surgical masks, they work as a filter for the drops emitted when speaking, sneezing or coughing. While respirators (FFP1, FFP2 and FFP3) have a much sharper filter that prevents the passage of small particles of 0.1 microns.



What are face masks used for?

Currently, in this context of a pandemic, the main purpose of the usage of a mask is to prevent the chain of contagion from continuing to increase, since the virus is transmitted through contact with a person's fluids. 

For example, saliva contains germs and bacteria, and one of the routes by which COVID-19 is transmitted is the mouth. In that way, if an infected person while speaking accidentally expels drops of saliva and does not wear a mask, it infects those close to it in a range of 1.5 meters.


Evidence of how effective they are

 In the following picture, we show you why they are effective. Remember, the mask will not protect you from the virus, it is one of the measures that we must put into practice to reduce the probabilities of contagion.

wear a mask to protect yourself and others


Wear a mask to protect others

As described in the previous image, it is necessary for all of us to use a mask so as not to dissipate our germs and bacteria and infect others in case of being affected by any virus or even COVID-19. In addition, you must comply with this biosecurity measure because there are asymptomatic people.


How to select the right mask? 

It will depend on the circumstance in which the mask will be used. For instance, if you need extra protection because you might visit a hospital or travel by plane, then it is recommended to get a FFP2 or N95 respirator. If you are working in a factory in which you might be exposed to dust and dangerous gases, then the usage of a FFP3 or a gas mask respirator is recommended. However, for general usage, for example, commuting to work or shopping, then it is advised by the World Health Organisation the usage of a surgical mask.


Do choose face masks that

• Comply with the current regulations and are certified.

• Go hand in hand with my daily life

• Are the ideal partner for the type of work you’re performing

• Are new and without previous use


Do not choose face masks that

• They are not certified

• Are artisan or cloth-made without any filters.

• Have been used


How to wear mask and glasses at the same time?

 It will depend on the type of mask you use. If it is of the medical type, we recommend to take a piece of napkin and fold it in a way that it can be placed under the nose wire so that when you breathe, the crystals do not mist. If you do use a respirator, you will not have problems.


Masks for children 

At the moment there are no endorsed masks, so they must use the standard size. Only those which are cloth-made and can be adapted to a smaller size are recommended for kids when they are accompanied with a certified filter.


What different types of masks are there?

Depending on the work area and the particular needs of each person, there are several types of masks that adapt to each situation:


Basic masks 

These are masks that do not filter bacteria or germs, mostly they are recommended to protect people mostly from dust and toxic substances.


Surgical & medical masks

These are mainly used by medical personnel in normal situations. Also, with the arrival of COVID-19, their use has been widely spread as they help to stop the spread of the virus and protect people from coarse particles with a size between 3 and 8 microns.



N95, N99, FFP2, FFP3 masks

These 4 types are respirators, that is, they are designed with greater precision and protection layers. This is due to the fact that they have a face seal to avoid the air entrances that exist, for example, in surgical masks. In addition, they are of a high level of security because they can contain 0.1 micron particles


How do masks with exhalation valves or vents work?

When inhaling, the valve filters the air and closes to prevent the entry of infectious agents, while when exhaling it allows the air to escape without being filtered. This type of mask secure the user from being infected but not the others around, also they have been banned in many countries such as Spain, Italy, etc.


What are the benefits of combining a mask with a face shield?

This measure provides a have greater personal protection, especially if a mask and a face shield are used in public transport as it is a closed place and crowds people. By having both accessories people can protect themselves and reduce the probabilities of any infection through the eyes, mouth and nose.


How to wear a mask

Thanks to the WHO we can explain it to you with a simple infographic as follows:


How to wear a medical mask safely

Do wear a mask that...

Certified masks are recommended as they have been extensively tested and verify the quality and effectiveness of the masks according to the standards of the health authorities. Each country has its own certification standard for each mask type. For example, in Europe, there is the EN 14683 standard for surgical masks, whereas China uses the YY 0469 standard. Each standard can vary a little by country, however, they are broadly similar. For respirator masks, China uses the KN standard (e.g. KN95) and the US uses the N standard (e.g. N95).


Do not wear a mask... 

Masks that don’t comply with any standard are not effective and don’t provide the desired level of protection. Although many masks may follow a specific standard according to the regulations of a country, if these masks are not certified, then there’s not a guarantee of these masks to be fully effective.


Wear your mask correctly

Avoid putting on the mask in the following ways:


How not to wear a medical mask for safety

How to remove it 

• Wash your hands with soap and water, or use a hydroalcoholic solution

• Take one of the tapes and remove it slowly

• Do not touch the front as it may be contaminated

• If it is not disposable, keep it isolated until you clean it. Otherwise, you can throw it away.

• Go back to wash your hands.


When should a mask be worn?

It is advisable to use it every time you need to leave the house, as an accessory that you cannot stop using


When you are in public...

If you are in a poorly ventilated, closed and easily crowded place, you should wear a mask to protect yourself and others. In case of being in an opened place a surgical mask is recommend, if otherwise, many health authorities recommend a N95 or FFP2 respirator.


During travel...

It is mandatory in many countries to wear a mask in public transportation because it is a public transport and concentrates many people in the same place. Depending on the kind of transport you might need a surgical mask of a N95 or FFP2 respirator.


In the workplace...

It depends on the type of work you do and the business regulations. Generally, a surgical mask is recommended when there’s little contact with people around. However, those working in the health sector at this moment are obliged in many European countries to wear a N95 or FFP2 respirator.


At home...

No need to use it unless you are surrounded by someone which does not belong to your family circle. In that case, it is advised to wear a surgical mask.



How to clean the mask?

Note that many masks are designed for a single used, however, If the mask is reusable you can: 


Before putting it on the normal cycle, you should soak it in water in a 1:50 solution of bleach 

Hand wash 

It is recommended to soak the masks in a 1:50 solution of bleach (20 ml of bleach, 980 ml of water) with warm water for 30 minutes and then wash with soap and water. 

How to dry 

You can put it in the sun, if putting to dry in an opened space you must ensure that nobody will touch or infect the mask. Also, you can put it in the dryer on the hot setting to help kill any potentially remaining particles.


Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need to wear masks with the family? 

If you're going out to meet members of your family that don't regularly live with you, then is recommended to use a mask. Also, if the members of your family live with you and take the corresponding measures to prevent contagion from COVID-19, then it is not necessary to use a mask. 

Will the mask protect against coronavirus? 

No, it helps reduce the chances of contagion. Note that wearing a mask is one of the most important measures to prevent getting infected, however, you must comply with many other recommendations such as the constant hand washing and keeping the 1.5 meters distance from people. 

Can you reuse a mask? 

Generally, you cannot reuse a mask unless your mask is stated as washable or reusable. In that case you must constantly change the filters of the mask. 

Is there a wrong way to wear my mask?

If the mask does not cover your nose and mouth you are using it in the wrong way.  

Do I wash a reusable mask after each use?

Masks should be routinely washed depending on the frequency of use. But that leaves the door open for interpretation. Experts say masks should be washed daily. If you’ve been out all day, you should probably wash it again so you can ensure it will be ready for the next time. It is recommended to have many reusable masks so that you can change them every time you use them.