How to Wear a Surgical Mask Correctly (Includes Helpful Images!)

how to wear surgical mask

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With the number of patients with the Wuhan virus rising every day, it’s easy to panic. People are queuing up to buy surgical masks, leading it to be out of stock in many places.

In China, there have been 4,000 confirmed cases, and the death toll has risen to 106 at the time of writing.

And yesterday (27 January 2020), the 5th case of the Wuhan coronavirus was confirmed in Singapore.

62 of the patients previously classified as suspected cases have tested negative and the test results for the remaining 57 suspected cases are still pending.

That’s why Singaporeans are suiting up (their mouths).

But why use surgical masks at all?

Surgical masks can help reduce the spread of viruses as they are designed to block large-particle droplets and splatter from reaching the wearer’s mouth and nose.

It also reduces exposure of the wearer’s saliva and respiratory secretions to others.


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But are we wearing these surgical masks the right way?

Before I proceed, you should note that the headline says “surgical mask” and not the N95 masks, because the N95 masks are designed to effectively filter airborne particles and are more appropriate for the haze.

Experts suggest to use surgical masks as people might not wear N95 masks correctly, which leads to the next point:

How do you put on surgical masks correctly?

Well, turns out, here’s the actual way to wear a surgical mask.

Here’s the guide on how to wear surgical masks correctly.

Surgical Mask Fact 1: White Side Should Face You

All surgical masks should have two sides: one white and the other green or blue.

Here, take a look:

Some people believe that the blue side of the surgical mask should be facing towards them when they want to prevent their germs escaping, and that the white side should be facing outwards if they want to protect themselves from pollution and illness.

This is NOT true.

Image: Tenor

As The Straits Times reports, good quality surgical masks have three layers: two outer layers (one white and one coloured), and a middle layer which acts as the filter.

And there is only one way to wear them: with the white side facing you and the coloured side facing outwards.

Here’s BuffLord95 wearing it the correct way:

how to wear surgical mask

But of course, he’s protecting his eyes because he 没眼见人 (no eye see human). Here’s the correct way to cover your mouth and nose:

how to wear surgical mask


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You see, the coloured outer layers are water-repellent, to prevent any bodily fluids (for example, sweat, blood or mucus) from being absorbed into the surgical mask.

Conversely, the white layer absorbs many of the secretions that we release from our respiratory system.

Wearing the surgical mask the wrong way around would not only increase discomfort but could also reduce its effectiveness.

Surgical Mask Fact 2: It Should Cover Your Nose

Now, if you’re wearing the surgical mask and it’s not covering your nose, you might as well grab the nearest stranger and sneeze directly into their mouths, because you are not using the surgical mask correctly.

So, when you put on the surgical mask, make sure to pull it over your face so that it covers your mouth, nose, and chin. You should basically look like a lame ninja.

Image: The Jakarta Post

The thin metal wire along the upper edge of the surgical mask should also be pressed gently against the bridge of your nose.

Basically the top should be above the bridge of your nose, just below your eyes, and the bottom should be over your chin.

Here’s wild BuffLord95 again showing you the correct way to wear it:


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how to wear surgical mask

Surgical Mask Fact 3: Touch Only the Straps When Disposing

I don’t know why some of you are thinking dirty, but let’s move on.

One mistake that even the most kiasi of Singaporeans make when using the surgical mask is grabbing the surface of the surgical mask when disposing of it.

Here we get BuffLord95 to remove his surgical mask the incorrect way:

how to wear surgical mask

This completely defeats the purpose of using the surgical mask because any germs that the surgical mask would have blocked from your beautiful face would then be all over your hands. And if you touch your face after, then the surgical mask was a waste.

Here’s BuffLord95 touching himself because that’s what he does best:

how to wear surgical mask


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Instead, what you should do is to grab the surgical mask by the straps over your ears when removing it, and dispose of it in the rubbish bin.

For this, take a look at how BuffLord95 removes his surgical mask like a trained nurse:

Remember, of course, to dispose of it.

And by the way, if you’re like Doraemon, then you might need to buy a special mask.

Jokes aside, here are some other things to take note of when using a surgical mask:

  • Try not to touch the surgical mask once it is secured on your face as frequent handling may reduce its protection. If you must do so, wash your hands before and after touching the surgical mask.
  • A surgical mask should be discarded after use and under no circumstances should it be used for longer than a day. Replace the surgical mask immediately if it is damaged or soiled.

So please, DO NOT, even if you’re the type who reuse your cooking oil a few thousand times, reuse yesterday’s surgical mask. If you need a number, one surgical mask should be able to last for a maximum of eight hours, though you should change it earlier if you can.


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In addition to using a surgical mask, there are many other things you can do to prevent spreading and contracting the coronavirus:

  • Avoid contact with live animals
  • Observe good personal hygiene
  • Wear a surgical mask if you have respiratory symptoms like cough or shortness of breath
  • Avoid crowded places and close contact with people who are unwell or showing symptoms of illness
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap
  • Cover your mouth with a tissue paper when coughing or sneezing and dispose of the soiled tissue in the bin immediately

And just another interesting fact: do you know that wearing surgical mask can help you lose weight, too?

Here’s why:

covid-19

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