When to use masks in the context of COVID-19

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When to use masks in the context of COVID-19

When to use masks in the context of COVID-19 and our Advice on the use of masks in communities, during home care, and in health care settings in areas that have reported cases of COVID-19. It is intended for individuals in the community, public health and infection prevention and control (IPC) professionals, health care managers, health care workers (HCWs), and community health workers. This updated version includes a section on Advice to decision makers on the use of masks for healthy people in community settings

All persons should:

  • avoid groups of people and enclosed, crowded spaces
  • maintain physical distance of at least 1 m from other persons, in particular from those with respiratory symptoms (e.g., coughing, sneezing
  • perform hand hygiene frequently, using an alcohol-based hand rub if hands are not visibly dirty or soap and water when hands are visibly dirty
  • cover their nose and mouth with a bent elbow or paper tissue when coughing or sneezing, dispose of the tissue immediately after use, and perform hand hygiene
  • refrain from touching their mouth, nose, and eyes.In some countries masks are worn in accordance with local customs or in accordance with advice by national authorities in the context of COVID-19. In these situations, best practices should be followed about how to wear, remove, and dispose of them, and for hand hygiene after removal

When to use masks in the context of COVID-19 and Type of Mask : WHO stresses that it is critical that medical masks and respirators be prioritized for health care workers. The use of masks made of other materials (e.g., cotton fabric), also known as non medical masks, in the community setting has not been well evaluated. There is no current evidence to make a recommendation for or against their use in this setting.

Mask Management

For any type of mask, appropriate use and disposal are essential to ensure that they are effective and to avoid any increase in transmission. The following information on the correct use of masks is derived from practices in health care settings :

  • Place the mask carefully, ensuring it covers the mouth and nose, and tie it securely to minimize any gaps between the face and the mask.
  • Avoid touching the mask while wearing it.
  • Remove the mask using the appropriate technique: do not touch the front of the mask but untie it from behind.
  • After removal or whenever a used mask is inadvertently touched, clean hands using an alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
  • Replace masks as soon as they become damp with a new clean, dry mask.  Do not re-use single-use masks.
  • Discard single-use masks after each use and dispose of them immediately upon removal

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