5 On Your Side

Treat masks like the virus threat they pose

Posted December 9, 2020 2:35 p.m. EST
Updated December 9, 2020 7:04 p.m. EST

When was the last time you washed your mask?

"The mask is potentially contaminated with the virus," says Dr. Nicholas Pennings. "So, when you touch the outside and adjust your mask, you’re contaminating your fingers."

Dr. Pennings chairs family medicine at Campbell University School of Osteopathic Medicine.

With COVID-19 cases hitting critical stages, he reminds us to not touch the center of the mask, whether putting it on or adjusting the fit.

He says to touch only the bands or sides of any mask, because most of the filtering occurs in the center of the mask. That’s where where more virus could be.

And it’s not just stopping COVID.

"The mask is not just filtering the coronavirus, it’s filtering all the viruses in the air," said Pennings.

To avoid cross-contamination, he says store used masks in a bag until they can be washed, adding, "I think it’s important not to use your mask for too long or too often, particularly a surgical mask. You want to use it and dispose of it. Don’t use it over and over again," said Pennings.

Some people report sore throats from wearing masks. Experts say it’s likely from your effort to speak louder.

And if you’re dealing with irritated skin, doctors say it’s probably from moisture. The solution? Bring an extra mask to change into.

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