News National We’re so bad at wearing face masks that we may as well not wear them

We’re so bad at wearing face masks that we may as well not wear them

Face masks
There are a lot more people sporting face masks. But most of the time, they don't work. Photo: Getty
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A majority of people are so bad at wearing face masks properly, they may as well not wear them at all, a study has revealed.

It comes as a growing number of people don face masks in public to try to protect themselves and others from coronavirus-carrying air droplets.

But there is a right and a wrong way to wear them.

And if you’re wearing one under your nose or hanging loose around your face then it isn’t worth the discomfort.

Just one in eight people manage to wear their face masks properly, a Singapore study released on Thursday revealed.

The most common mistakes were misplaced straps, which leave a gap between the mask and the skin, and failing to tighten the nose grip.

Older people tend to misapply the masks more often than young people, according to the study.

The researchers also said those who were given instruction leaflets still had trouble wearing the mask properly, and people who had owned and used masks before the pandemic were just as likely to mess it up.

So what is the right way?

First of all, face masks are not shields against COVID-19 and we should not rely upon them as a form of protection.

The World Health Organisation has repeatedly said you do not need to wear a face mask unless you are a healthcare worker, looking after a confirmed coronavirus case, or are sick and coughing.

Though wearing a medical mask properly can help limit the spread of some respiratory diseases to an extent, using a mask alone is not guaranteed to stop infections.

Surgical-grade N95 respirators offer the highest level of protection against infection, followed by surgical-grade masks, but these are usually reserved for frontline healthcare workers.

If you decide you’re going to wear one, clean your hands first with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.

Cover your mouth and nose with the mask, ensuring there are no gaps at all between your face and the mask. It must be snug.

Once you’ve got it on, you must avoid fiddling with it.

Don’t take breaks by dangling it under your chin or pulling it off to the side.

The more you touch your face, the less effective it will be.

If you are desperate to adjust it, you need to thoroughly clean your hands again before touching it.

Replace the mask with a new one as soon as it is damp and do not reuse single-use masks.

To remove the mask, remove it from behind (do not touch the front of mask) and discard immediately in a closed bin.