Mask On….Mask Off

When the pandemic hit, we were told to wear masks anytime we were in public. Unfortunately, weren’t instructed in the proper use of them. It’s not as simple as “cover your face.”

As a respiratory therapist and physical therapist, I spent over 30 years wearing masks in a variety of clinical settings. I do not consider myself an expert, but there were certain precautions we were required to follow to help keep ourselves and our patients safe.

1). Once you have your mask in place, you never touch it again, for any reason. If do touch your face or your mask, you must remove your mask, dispose of it, and replace it with a new one. Under no circumstance would you ever reuse a mask.

2). Your mask must completely cover your mouth and nose. Any exposure of either one, no matter how briefly, can contaminate the mask as well as expose the very people you are trying to protect. Including yourself.

3). Again, you would never reuse a mask, but a lot of us are using cloth masks that are reusable, which is fine. But, only if you wash your mask after each and every use. No exceptions. I know, it’s a real pain, but not when you consider what the consequences are if you don’t.

Every time we exhale, our exhaled air contains bacteria and even (ack) viruses that are already in our body, which is necessary for normal body function. It’s called normal flora and helps keep our bodies in balance. When the balance is disrupted, the bacteria and viruses have the opportunity to grow, multiply, and spread.

Exhaling into a mask for an extended period of time increases the number of pathogens (fancy name for germs) into the mask. Then we inhale them, exhaling an even higher concentration of pathogens. And just think….we all spit a little every time we speak. I know, kind of gross, but that’s another normal bodily function. So, not only are you exhaling re-breathed air into your mask, you are spitting in it as well. Again, disrupting the balance of normal flora, which can cause serious sinus and upper respiratory infections, pulmonary complications, digestive issues and a compromised immune system. And make us susceptible to a host of other health issues.

It pains me that our medical “experts” haven’t shared this information with the general public. You see it’s not as simple as “cover your face.” It’s important to follow proper mask protocol, as well as good mask hygiene, regardless of the type of mask you choose to use. Be mindful of your mask, every time you put your mask on, and mask off. Your health depends on it.