Face masks are designed for the medical and healthcare industries, to help prevent cross infections between personnel and patients. They prevent droplets from spreading from one person to another. Compared to N95 Respirators, these masks tend to be loose-fitting, and a Face Shield can also be worn for added protection. The terms ‘medical’, ‘surgical’, and ‘procedural’ are often used interchangeably to refer to these masks.
A study during a non-pandemic situation found that although 88.4% of the participants believed they knew the correct steps for wearing a face mask, only 52% answered the questions correctly (Lee et al., 2020). It's essential that the mask is on securely and properly fitted to ensure effectiveness.
3 Steps to Donning (putting on) Face Masks
Hand hygiene is an important step. Before touching the mask, it’s best practice to clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitiser for 20-30 seconds or wash your hands with soap and water for 40-60 seconds.*
Inspect the mask for tears or holes. Do not use a mask that has previously been worn or is damaged.
Identify the top of the mask, where the metal bendy strip is and the inside of the mask, which is usually the white side.
- Place the mask on your face, covering your nose, mouth and chin; make sure there are no gaps between your face and mask. Loop around the ears or tie the straps at the back of the head, top first. Pinch the metal strip so that it moulds to the shape of your nose and cheek. To avoid hand contamination, it’s best not to touch the front of the mask while using it. If you accidentally touch it, it’s best practice to clean your hands. Replace the mask if it gets soiled or damp.
3 Steps to Doffing (taking off) Face Masks
To remove a medical face mask, ensure your hands are clean first. Without touching the front of the mask, remove the loops from behind the head or ear or untie the straps.
As you remove the mask, lean forward and pull the mask away from your face using the loops or straps.
Medical face masks are for single use only. Discard the mask immediately, preferably into a closed bin. Clean your hands after touching the mask. Ideally, loops on masks should be snipped to prevent a tangling hazard for wildlife if masks were to end up loose in the environment.
- Clean your hands again with either a hand sanitiser or wash your hands with soap and water.
- For use in healthcare, medical masks in New Zealand are required to conform with Standard AS 4381:2015 or international equivalent.
- Masks alone can’t protect you from COVID-19. There are some techniques you can use to improve the fit of your mask. Refer to the Ministry of Healths’ website for more information.