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Your Healthy Family: Wearing and caring for a cloth face mask

Posted at 9:55 AM, Apr 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-10 11:55:31-04

CLEVELAND, OHIO — The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), now recommends wearing fabric masks or cloth face coverings, in public, to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Aaron Hamilton, M.D., of Cleveland Clinic, said wearing a cloth mask can be useful in situations where social distancing is a challenge.

“When space is tight, or you’re in an area where it’s hard to be six feet apart, the cloth mask ultimately protects others from you - that’s really the idea behind it,” he said. “It’s an extension of public health and helping to reduce the spread of coronavirus in the community.”

Dr. Hamilton said cloth masks are not considered personal protective equipment (PPE).

He said wearing a fabric mask helps protect others from germs people may not realize they have.

Masks can help stop us from touching our faces, can be a visual reminder to use social distancing, and can also help cover a cough or sneeze.

“They’re an extension of what we call cough etiquette,” said Dr. Hamilton. “We say, if you’re going to cough or sneeze, cough into your elbow, and this helps to reinforce that and makes it more effective,”

Dr. Hamilton said people should still be following shelter-at-home orders, and reminds us a mask is meant as an extra layer of protection when venturing out for essential reasons – like food or to see the doctor.

He said cloth masks, whether purchased or homemade, can play a role in reducing virus spread, as long as they’re worn properly.

“You might hear that different face masks are secured with either loops around your ears or maybe tied on the top and at the bottom. Either are okay as long as the fit is snug around your face, covers your nose and mouth and is not used around your neck or on your forehead,” said Dr. Hamilton.

Dr. Hamilton advises washing cloth masks on the gentle cycle, or hand washing with hot, soapy water, after each use. Masks should be dried on high heat.

It’s also important to thoroughly wash hands after removing or handling a used mask.