Editor's note: Is it safe to get back to the life you knew? As services come back, we’re asking our doctors and other providers to help answer those questions in a series called Navigating COVID: Back to life. You’ll find those stories, and many others, here. Got a question? Email [email protected].
Yolanda Enrich, a family nurse practitioner at Novant Health Adult Primary Care Waughtown, answers your questions about wearing face masks.
This is part two in Enrich’s series about how to wear a mask properly during COVID-19.
Q: Why do I need to keep wearing a mask?
It's the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The primary reason: by wearing a mask, you protect others. Even if you're well you can still spread the coronavirus. Also, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has mandated masking until July 17 in locations were social distancing is difficult.
Q: Is there a wrong way to wear my mask?
The mask should fit snugly and cover your nose, mouth and chin. You should also never touch the front of your mask as it might be contaminated. Instead, you should only touch the ear loops or ties on the back when putting the mask on or taking it off.
Always have the same side of the mask facing outward. You don't want to go into a public place wearing a mask, take it off later, and then put it back on with the front now pressing on your face. You should also wash your hands before and after use.
Q: There are a lot of masks to choose from. Does it matter if I get a surgical mask, homemade cloth mask or N95 mask?
You don’t need an N95 mask. N95 masks should be worn only by medical providers when they are performing procedures. They also have to be fitted to work properly.
For normal activities like running around town, a homemade or store-bought cloth mask is fine.
Q: Is there a polite way to ask someone else to mask up?
Tell them that you are really concerned about your health and your immediate family, and ask them out of respect to please wear a mask. If they don’t, you should wear a mask, and of course continue to social distance.
Q: Our mommy group wants to get together again with our kids. Is that OK if we are wearing masks?
I wouldn’t recommend that yet. But if you still decide to get together, avoid in-home visits and try a socially distanced outdoor gathering instead.
Q: Do I need to wear a mask at family gatherings?
Around immediate household family members, no. But if it is a family gathering with people who don’t live under the same roof, then yes, you should wear a mask.
Q: Do I need to wear a mask when I’m swimming?
No. It would be too hard to keep the mask dry, and a wet mask can fall down and leave you exposed. The big thing to remember here is that in the water, just like on dry ground, you need to practice social distancing.
Q: Do I have to wash the reusable mask after every use?
No. You don’t need to wash your cloth mask after every use. But they do need to be washed frequently.
Q: Does it matter what color side my cloth mask faces?
It does not matter. Just remember to always have the inside facing inward and the outside facing outward. Don’t switch them up.
Q: My husband has a beard, should he cut it to better insulate his face with the mask on?
I would suggest shaving the beard. A beard can allow extra space to exist on both sides of the mask and protection is best when the mask fits snugly around your nose, mouth and chin.
Q: When I wear a mask, I feel dizzy and find it hard to breathe. Is that normal?
No. Wearing a cloth mask should not make you feel lightheaded. If you are experiencing problems, make sure the mask is not too tight or too thick. The mask should be breathable and fit snuggly.
Q: Can the coronavirus live on hair?
Yes. If someone with COVID-19, for example, sneezes and the droplets land on your hair, you touch your hair and then touch your eyes, noise or mouth, the virus can spread. This is why it is so important to social distance and practice frequent hand-washing.
Q: Do I need to wear a mask when I’m riding a bike?
No. Just be mindful of where you travel to on your bike and if you do get around others it is best to wear a mask.
Q: Can wearing a mask cause long-term medical problems?
No. some people may develop a skin allergy but it shouldn’t cause any serious health problems.
Q: Can I reuse the flimsy throwaway masks?
Ideally, it’s best to toss them after use. But if you don’t have another one, it’s OK to use it again. Just don’t touch the contaminated side.
Q: A store clerk asked me to remove my mask to check my ID when buying wine. Is that safe?
Take the mask off by grabbing it by the ear loops, and then putting it back on quickly and you should be OK, especially if the clerk has a mask on.
Top photo: Brandi Edwards wears a mask while taking a walk around her neighborhood.