Coronavirus: When and how to use face masks? How can you protect yourself?

25 March 2020, 07:42 | Updated: 25 March 2020, 07:46

When and how should you wear a face mask to protect from coronavirus?
When and how should you wear a face mask to protect from coronavirus? Picture: PA

With the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe many people are asking when and how do you wear a face mask and how can you protect yourself from Covid-19?

The World Health Organisation advises people to stay aware of the latest information on the coronavirus outbreak. The body said most people who become infected experience mild illness and recover, but it can be more severe for others.

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You can protect yourself and others by following some simple measures:

Stay at home if you have coronavirus symptoms

The NHS advises the public to stay at home if you have either:

a high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)

a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)

To protect others, do not go to places like a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. Stay at home.

Use the 111 online coronavirus service to find out what to do.

Read more: Coronavirus symptoms - What are they and what is the risk of Covid-19 in the UK?

Read more: Coronavirus: Beard sanitiser sales spike after NHS urged staff to shave

What else can you do to slow the spread of Covid-19?

Wash your hands frequently

Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.

Why? Washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rub kills viruses that may be on your hands.

Maintain social distancing

Maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.

Why? When someone coughs or sneezes they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease.

Read more: How long does Covid-19 live on surfaces, and is it safe to get overseas post?

Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth

Why? Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and can make you sick.

Practice respiratory hygiene

The WHO says to make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.

Why? Droplets spread virus. By following good respiratory hygiene you protect the people around you from viruses such as cold, flu and COVID-19.

If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early

Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance. Follow the directions of your local health authority.

Why? National and local authorities will have the most up to date information on the situation in your area. Calling in advance will allow your health care provider to quickly direct you to the right health facility. This will also protect you and help prevent spread of viruses and other infections.

Read more: Who is a key worker and what children are classed as vulnerable in UK school closures?

Read more: Coronavirus and pregnant women: What is the official government advice?

Who needs to wear a mask?

If you are healthy, you only need to wear a mask if you are taking care of a person with suspected Covid-19 infection.

Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.

Masks are effective only when used in combination with frequent hand-cleaning with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.

If you wear a mask, then you must know how to use it and dispose of it properly.

Read more: Coronavirus - Who should self-isolate and for how long?

How to put on, use, take off and dispose of a mask

Before putting on a mask, clean hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.

Cover mouth and nose with mask and make sure there are no gaps between your face and the mask.

Avoid touching the mask while using it; if you do, clean your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.

Replace the mask with a new one as soon as it is damp and do not re-use single-use masks.

To remove the mask: remove it from behind (do not touch the front of mask); discard immediately in a closed bin; clean hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.

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