Important note before reading: please see the tips below to make your own mask. We need to reserve manufactured personal protective equipment (PPE) for medical professionals and other essential workers.
As a small-town rural Canadian girl, when I first set foot in China back in 2005 I experienced a whirlwind of culture shock. While the food and language were a big cultural adjustment, the lack of personal space was perhaps the biggest change. I ended up spending 13 years living and working there, so what first seemed completely foreign to me eventually became comfortable and normal.
One of my “new normals” became wearing masks when I was sick. Now that more people are embracing mask-wearing in the US during COVID-19, I’d like to share some of the tips that I learned while living in a mask-wearing culture.
Wearing masks is embraced across many Asian countries and is seen as a common courtesy, like covering your mouth when you cough. This is done to limit the spread of germs, therefore protecting everyone else around them. Because this is such a normal thing in Asia, buying face masks is also very convenient with options for all ages. There, you can usually find them at any cash register beside the chewing gum.
I came to appreciate mask-wearing more and more and have fully embraced it, which is why I’ve recently made my own homemade cloth mask that I will be wearing each time I go out of the house. It will feel odd doing this here in the US, but I see it as doing my part in this crisis to curb the spread, and I encourage others to do the same.
Of course, wearing your HOMEMADE MASK will be done in addition to all of the other social distancing protective measures asked of us at this time. We can view wearing a mask as another way we can safeguard the spread of COVID-19.
Masks may aid in decreasing the spread of COVID-19 in 3 ways:
- Decreasing virus spread by infected individuals. The mask may trap virus particles on the inside, preventing the virus particles becoming airborne.
- Decreasing new infections by uninfected individuals. The mask may prevent airborne virus particles being inhaled from the outside.
- Limiting hand-to-face contact. The mask puts a physical barrier between potentially contaminated hand and passages to the lungs.
PERSONAL TIPS FOR WEARING A MASK
I know full well that wearing a mask in public can feel weird or uncomfortable at first. You might feel silly walking out the door with your face half showing or talking to people through this barrier. The uncomfortableness is normal so be patient with yourself. There are also some other not-so-fun aspects that I will be honest about while providing some personal tips.
You will be breathing through your mask now, so it can feel stuffy. You could even start breathing out of your mouth instead of your nose to get more oxygen, and if you’re talking a lot that can create condensation inside which can feel gross. In addition to the condensation, when in warm weather or spaces, your face can also get sweaty. Masks with elastics that go around your ears can feel uncomfortable when worn for longer periods of time and your ears can get sore. All that said, the benefits sure outweigh the cons right now so here are some things you can do to make it a bit better.
Tips for Wearing a Mask:
- DO wear it properly. Make sure it fits snuggly and seals around your nose, cheeks and jaw. Once it’s on securely, do not fidget with it. Masks that tie around your head fit better, while masks that go around your ears don’t mess with your hair as much.
- You DON’T need make-up! No one will see half your face, plus the makeup just rubs off onto the mask making it discolored and dirty looking. DO instead put on a light-weight facial serum/lotion, then your mask and go!
- DO have a backup mask in your purse/car so you always have one in a pinch. Also, if one gets too hot or sweaty you can switch for a fresh one.
- With COVID in mind, I recommend having a ziplock bag ready to put used masks in immediately after use and then wash them properly.
HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN MASKS
Read this to learn different ways to make a homemade mask with things you typically have around the home already. This link provides a few options to start, some that require sewing and others that don’t. If you want a SUPER easy and quick mask, check out this video on how to make one using a sock!
This article talks about how the fabric matters. QUICK TIP: If light can shine through, then particles could go through. Make sure yours provides enough protection; function over fashion!
If you choose to wear a mask in public, I hope these tips and how-tos are helpful to you!