The COVID-19 pandemic has sparked a great deal of interest in what people are doing to avoid getting infected. One of the methods strongly encouraged is physical or social distancing, which is regarded to be the most important step that can contain the transmission of the novel coronavirus but it must be in combination with the wearing of face masks and handwashing with soap and running water.
The face and the hands are crucial in the prevention efforts against the pandemic. By now, every Nigerian should understand how to wash their hands correctly. Use of face masks is recommended because they prevent the virus from getting into the respiratory system. People touch their faces all the time, often without realising it, so an infected person can get the virus on their hands from their mouth or nose and pass it on to others, either directly or by contaminating a surface which others then touch. So regular hand washing is crucial.
The World Health Organisation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recommended to the general public to wear cloth face masks to help decrease chances of getting COVID-19. There have been questions about whether cloth face mask is really effective. There are different grades of face masks (or nose masks), the N95 mask gives 95 per cent protection and it is advised to be used by those in the isolation wards and taking care of patients. The N95 and surgical face masks should not be worn by members of the public, rather face masks made from cloth and other suitable fabrics are recommended. Cloth facemasks are cheap, washable and reusable.
But while the use of face masks is okay, it should be realised that face masks do not provide absolute protection. People must be trained on how to handle them properly. They must learn how to wear, remove and dispose of them properly. Improper use coupled with constantly touching of the mask and the face can make the face masks potential sources of COVID-19 infection.
We must understand that while wearing face mask is useful, it does not take absolute risk away, you must still observe other precautions including hand washing and social distancing.
How to put on and remove a face mask
Cross-contamination often happens when putting on and taking off face masks and cloth face coverings/ But there is a simple technique involved. Before you touch a new mask or even put it on, wash your hands or use a hand sanitiser. Wear the mask carefully, ensuring it covers your nose and mouth properly. The mask should be dry, not torn, or soiled.
Face masks are a tool for preventing the spread of disease. They are usually loose-fitting masks that cover the nose and mouth, and have ear loops or ties or bands at the back of the head. Facemasks help limit the spread of germs. When someone talks, coughs, or sneezes they may release tiny drops into the air that can infect others. If someone is ill a face masks can reduce the number of germs that the wearer releases and can protect other people from becoming sick.
A face mask also protects the wearer’s nose and mouth from splashes or sprays of body fluids. A face mask is worn when you are sick with a cough or sneezing illness and you expect to be around other people. Disposable face masks should be used once and then thrown in the trash. You should also remove and replace masks when they become moist.
Wash your hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer before touching the mask. Determine which side of the mask is the top. The side of the mask that has a stiff bendable edge is the top and is meant to mould to the shape of your nose. Determine which side of the mask is the front. The coloured side of the mask is usually the front and should face away from you, while the white side touches your face.
To wear the face mask, hold by the ear loops. Place a loop around each ear. If the mask has ties, bring the mask to your nose level and place the ties over the crown of your head and secure with a bow. Some masks have bands and should be secured appropriately. Make sure there are no gaps between your face and the mask.
To remove the mask, clean your hands with soap and water or hand sanitiser before touching the mask. Avoid touching the front of the mask because it is contaminated. Only touch the ear loops/ties/band. For masks with ear loops, hold both of the ear loops and gently lift and remove the mask. For masks with ties, untie the bottom bow first then untie the top bow and pull the mask away from you as the ties are loosened. For masks with bands, lift the bottom strap over your head first then pull the top strap over your head. To dispose used masks, throw in the trash and cover the lid. Was your hands with soap and water or hand sanitiser.
Hand gloves: To wear or not to wear?
Is wearing of gloves as safe as frequent hand washing? The honest answer is no. Wearing of gloves as a means of protection from the COVID-19 pandemic is not recommended for the average person. The reason is simple – gloves could spread infection more than expected when used inappropriately.
Normally, wearing gloves minimises contamination and keep hands clean, but they are only really useful when hand washing is not possible or inadequate to prevent chemical or biological contamination. And if they are worn, will need to be changed as often as hands need to be washed.
Wearing medical gloves doesn’t necessarily protect you from Covid-19 like face masks would because gloves can encourage cross-contamination to occur and germs to spread. It gives a false sense of security, and could make you less committed to other hand hygiene practices, like washing your hands or avoiding touching your face. You’re more likely to contaminate yourself when you’re wearing gloves and there is really no point wearing gloves if you’re not going to wash your hands every time you touch something.
Misuse of gloves make them unsterile and to be associated with risk of cross-contamination and spread of disease. Also, gloves are often used when they aren’t really needed or misused they are put on too early, or taken off too late or not changed at the appropriate times.
If you have touched a contaminated surface with a gloved hand, you areas likely to transmit contamination as if you haven’t worn gloves. The most common inappropriate use of gloves is using a pair of gloves for longer than necessary. Failing to change gloves when needed is no different from failing to wash your hands.
Gloves should only be worn to protect healthcare workers from blood, bodily fluids or certain drugs. When the patient needs protection, such as during surgery, gloves should be sterile. Either way, they need to be removed when they become contaminated and the same pair of gloves should never be used to touch more than one patient.
Most gloves are recommended for one-time use after which they should be disposed. Wearing gloves is not recommended for the average individual because they could make you less aware of contamination on your hands and discourage hand washing. Gloves won’t prevent coronavirus infection if the wearers touch their faces.