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Life Support

Coronavirus and facemasks

As the coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread with uncertainty, many people traveling in high risk areas are wearing some form of facemask as a primary means of protection.

You can track the latest status of the virus here)

The problem is that most people are not wearing them properly, do not understand the importance of correct fitting and removal, and think facemasks will protect them whilst not fully appreciating the importance of hand washing to stop the virus spread.

You think you are safe with your facemask on, only to touch a surface that has recently been touched by someone with coronavirus. Then you rub your eye. Or lift your mask for a second to scratch your nose. That’s all it takes. You are infected.

Take home messages:

If you don’t want to read the full article, here are my 6 take home messages:

  1. If you are traveling in a high-risk area, wash your hands before touching your face. EVERY TIME.
  2. Surgical type masks provide minimal protection.
  3. Do NOT touch the inside of your mask whilst putting it on or taking it off.
  4. Your mask should form a seal over your face. No gaps.
  5. If you have a beard any facemask will be INEFFECTIVE. You will need to shave it off. Sorry.
  6. Let me explain why you are probably washing your hands all wrong.

There are two types of face masks that you see most people wearing to protect them from coronavirus.

  1. Standard face mask.
  2. P2 face mask.

These are both disposable, single use masks.
It is very important that they are fitted properly in order to be effective.

Standard (surgical) face mask.

This is the mask you will usually be asked to wear if you go to a hospital or GP surgery with a cough or respiratory infection.

These are loose fitting masks. They create a physical barrier between your mouth & nose, and the outside environment.

They are intended to block larger particles, respiratory droplets, splashes or splatter from:

  • entering your mouth and nose when spread from other people.
  • spreading from your mouth and nose (eg when coughing or sneezing) into the outside environment (to protect others).

Standard face masks do NOT offer complete protection from viruses and bacteria, or protect against smaller particles due to their loose fit. They also become ineffective once damp and should be replaced.

How to wear it:


You should ideally wash your hands before picking up the mask.
The masks usually have a blue (or orange) side and a white side. Blue/orange should face outwards.
The masks usually have a small aluminium strip that bends to fit over your nose. This goes at the top.
Pick up the mask and with thumb and forefinger over the aluminium strip, bend it over your nose (and hold it there).
With your other hand pull the mask down over your chin.
Still holding the mask over your nose, now slide the elastic straps over each ear (see picture above).
Some masks have cotton ties that go over and behind your head to secure.
Wash your hands again.

P2 mask.

These masks are designed to achieve a very close seal around your face. They filter at least 95% of particles down to 0.3 microns in size.
They are used to protect you from exposure to microorganisms or bodily fluids.

Due to the poor seal, P2 masks are not effective if worn by people with facial hair.

How to wear it:


Wash your hands before picking up the mask.
Again, the orange or blue side faces outwards.
Bend the aluminium strip over your nose.
Whilst holding it in place pull the bottom of mask under your chin.
There are two elastic straps. One goes over your head and ears, and sits at the top of your neck. The other goes over your head and sits above your ears (see picture).

Important tips:


Once you have put the mask on try not to touch the front of it.

When removing the mask, grasp by the straps (try not to touch the front) and then lift it away from your face. Place it in a bin ( sometimes staff will ask you to use a special bin for this).

If you feel you are experiencing increased difficulty breathing whilst wearing a mask, or feel that it is not fitting properly you should seek medical assistance.

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