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Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Wearing a mask to stop the spread

Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)

Wearing a mask to stop the spread

Wearing a mask is a simple way to stop COVID-19 from spreading. When you wear a mask at the right times and take other important actions, you help protect yourself and the people around you. You also set a good example for others.

Masks work to stop COVID-19 and other diseases from spreading because they:

  • stop droplets from your nose and mouth from going into the air
  • keep you from touching your face (When you touch your face, you bring germs onto your face. You also spread germs when you touch your face and then touch people or surfaces without cleaning your hands.)

What else can I do along with wearing a mask?

Masks work best when you also take other actions. These include:

  • cleaning your hands often with alcohol-based hand rub (hand sanitizer) or soap and water
  • physical distancing (staying at least 2 metres away from other people)
  • staying home when you’re sick
  • following public health orders, local bylaws, and any health and safety rules in buildings

When everyone does these things, it helps everyone stay safe.

Will a mask help when physical distancing is difficult?

Wearing a mask and cleaning your hands helps to keep everyone safe when you’re within 2 metres of another person for a short time. Always wear a mask in shared indoor spaces such as:

  • doctor’s offices
  • public transit
  • grocery stores and retail shops
  • pharmacies
  • hair salons

Do I need to wear a mask if I’ve had the COVID-19 vaccine?

Keep following guidelines of when to wear a mask, even if you’ve had the COVID-19 vaccine. Clinical trials show that COVID-19 vaccines are a very useful way to protect against COVID-19. But their protection is about 94% to 95%, not 100%. This means 5 or 6 people out of 100 may still get COVID-19, even if they had the recommended doses of a vaccine. We also don’t know how long the protection lasts or how well the vaccine stops the spread of COVID-19.

This is why it’s important to practice recommended public health measures, like following guidelines of when to wear a mask or other equipment that helps protect you, washing your hands often, staying 2 metres away from others, and staying home when you’re sick. These measures prevent the spread of COVID-19, even if you’ve had the vaccine.

What should I look for in a mask?

A clean non-medical mask or a medical mask that fits snuggly over your mouth, nose, and chin is fine for most places. Do not wear a mask with an exhalation valve (a spot that opens when you breathe out), because droplets go out through the valve and can spread germs.

A non-medical mask can be either disposable (you throw it in the garbage after using it) or reusable. If your reusable mask is homemade, it’s best if it has 3 layers, including a filter layer.

Your mask should:

  • be comfortable
  • fit you well so you don’t need to adjust it often
  • let you breathe easily
  • have ties or ear loops to hold the mask in place

How do I put on my mask?

To put on your mask:

  1. Clean your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
  2. Open the mask all the way to cover your face from your nose to below your chin.
  3. Put the mask on using the ties or loops. If the mask has a nose bar, pinch it around your nose.
  4. Once it’s on, don’t touch the front of the mask or your face under the mask.

How do I take off my mask?

To take off your mask:

  1. Clean your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
  2. Use the ties or loops on the mask to take it off. Don’t touch the front of the mask.
  3. Throw out disposable masks in the garbage right away. Leaving your mask on the ground, a ledge, or anywhere else can spread germs.
  4. Clean your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.

For reusable masks, it’s a good idea carry a bag to safely store used masks until you can wash them at home. Also, carry a bag that has a few clean masks in it. Always clean your hands after taking off your reusable mask and before you take a clean mask from the bag.

How do I clean reusable masks?

Follow the washing and drying instructions for reusable masks. If there are no instructions, wash reusable masks in the washing machine or by hand with soap and water. You can dry them in the dryer or let them air dry. Reusable masks should keep their shape after washing and drying.

How often should I change my mask?

If your mask gets damp or dirty, clean your hands and put on a new one. Wear a new mask at least every day.

Why do I need to change my mask when I go to an Alberta Health Services (AHS) facility?

AHS facilities (such as hospitals) will give you a new medical mask to wear because this is an AHS policy.

How do I stop my glasses from fogging up when I’m wearing a mask?

Your glasses can fog up when the warm air you breathe comes out the top of the mask and steams up the lenses. Try these tips to stop your glasses from fogging up:

  • Wash your glasses with soap and water or use an anti-fogging product. Let them air dry or dry them gently with a soft cloth.
  • Put the lenses or nose pads of your glasses over your mask.
  • Adjust the nose pads on your glasses so the frames sit slightly farther from your face.

What if I can’t wear a mask?

Most people are able to wear a mask, but some people can’t wear a mask for medical reasons. Masks are also not recommended for children who are younger than 2 years old.

If you can’t wear a mask, it’s best to stay away from public places because not wearing a mask can put other people at risk. If you need urgent medical care, you will get the care you need. If possible, tell your doctor or the healthcare facility before you visit that you can’t wear a mask. You may need to go to a private room or separate space when you arrive.

To learn more about wearing non-medical masks to help stop COVID-19 from spreading, see Alberta Health’s COVID-19: Mask Requirements.

Related to Wearing a mask to stop the spread

Translations

To see this information online and learn more, visit MyHealth.Alberta.ca/Alberta/Pages/Wearing-a-mask-to-stop-the-spread.aspx.

For 24/7 nurse advice and general health information call Health Link at 811.

Current as of: Feb 2, 2021

Author: Infection Prevention & Control, Alberta Health Services

Care instructions may be adapted by your healthcare provider. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, talk with your doctor or appropriate healthcare provider.