Although the coronavirus vaccine is right around the corner for most, you still need to take active measures to take care of yourself and remain protected against the spread of the virus. Most people want to know just how long they can wear their masks without losing functionality and decreasing their safety level. Here is all you need to know about the length of time you should be wearing your masks and what to look out for that indicates that it’s probably time to throw your mask away for good.
Choose Extended Use over Reuse
The length of time to wear your face mask depends on the amount of accidental touching and associated risk of contact transmission. It also depends on how well your mask has maintained its fit and function over time. Generally speaking, extended use is recommended over reuse, because this suggests that less touching and risk of contamination has occurred for the duration of time the mask is being worn. It is challenging to come up with an exact time frame for how long to wear one disposable face mask, but the general rule of thumb is not to exceed thirty minutes at a time. The best masks are typically disposable masks, so reapplication is not an intended part of their design and function.
What is the Average Surgical Mask Wear-Time?
To minimize your risk of spreading contaminates, avoid touching your surgical mask, your eyes, and your face with your hands or your gloves if you are wearing them. Throw out your used mask into a lined trash can after every thirty minutes pass by to avoid spreading contaminants. If you notice that your surgical mask has gotten wet before the thirty-minute mark is over, it’s a good idea to remove the mask and then apply a new mask in its place. Although thirty-minutes is the general recommended wear time, they’re technically good for around eight hours of wear time. After this more extended period, you need to throw out your mask or put it through heavy sterilization. The longer you wear a mask, the wetter it will become, and it will start to degrade, impacting its function and protective capacity.
What are Surgical Face Masks?
There are many different kinds of masks available, but we are focusing specifically on surgical masks. Surgical face masks are a specific kind of safety face covering that is designed to be loose-fitting and offer a physical barrier between the user’s mouth and nose from the contaminants in their surroundings. Face masks considered to be surgical masks are typically made up of three layers. The outer layer is a non-woven, protective shield and the inner layer is an absorbent layer that catches particles in its material. The middle layer helps to reject particles attempting to enter into the mask. It also acts as a shield. Most surgical masks are reserved for the healthcare setting, but they are available for public purchase, especially by online retailers.
How Can I Test its Functionality?
If you think it might be time to get a new mask, consider putting your mask through the breath test. Basically, you hold up a candle, light it, and blow the candle out (or attempt to) while wearing your mask. If the flame does not extinguish, then your mask is most likely still in good condition. If the flame goes out, it’s possible that your mask cannot filter air particles as consistently as it did at first, suggesting that it may be time to replace it with a new one. This is a nice trick to rely on if you are unsure how long you have been wearing the same mask. However, the safest course of action is to keep track of how long you’ve been wearing your mask so that you can follow along with the thirty-minute rule or eight-hour window rule.
How Can I Wear My Mask for Longer?
To wear your mask for as long as possible, look for those that offer more layers. Some surgical masks even provide four layers of protection. The more layers involved, the greater you are protected from splashes and scatters of contaminants. The longer you can stay protected, the longer you can wear your mask. Additionally, always make use of the metal pong inside the seam and mold it to the shape of your nose’s bridge. In doing this, you will get the safest and most snug fit possible, ensuring that air particles are not getting in through your mask because of its looseness. Keeping air particles away for longer will allow you to stick with the same mask for an extended period of time. Still, surgical masks are considered to be disposable masks, so you want to avoid wearing them for more than one eight-hour period of single-use.
Use Your Best Judgment
Sticking by the timeframes suggested is an excellent way to ensure that you are taking safety seriously. Always consider your mask’s state, as it may be time to change masks if yours is soiled before the timeframe is up. If you find that the material or ear loops are loosening, you may also want to put on a new mask to ensure that you’re getting the best fit possible. The amount of time you spend touching your mask and adjusting it will also interfere with how well the mask will hold up over time. Try your best to avoid adjustments unless absolutely necessary. Remember to wash your hands frequently so that when you do make adjustments, you’re less likely to spread contaminants to your face from any surfaces you’ve touched throughout the day.
The length of time you wear your mask will depend on your mask’s state and how frequently you interfere with its positioning on your face. Stick to the thirty-minute increment rule or extend your use to one eight-hour window before changing masks. If you follow these general guidelines, you are doing all you can to stay safe against potential exposure.