Usage Of Masks And Gloves

Many people are confused about usage of gloves and masks, and the conflicting messages that have been communicated. Here are my recommendations based on WHO and NDOH Guidelines as well as literature:

1.  Masks

•  N95 masks should be reserved for healthcare workers 

•  Surgical masks should be reserved for healthcare workers, patients and their caregivers 

•  Cotton masks for the general public are still causing some confusion but there is a movement towards these masks as it recognized that whilst these masks may not protect the virus from entering your mouth and nose, they are helpful to prevent people from spreading large droplets when they sneeze and cough. These are useful especially in times where social distancing is difficult e.g. when travelling on public transport or out shopping

With this being said, all masks must be used with PROPER HYGIENE. These are:

•  Masks that are touched with unwashed hands, get wet, get soiled or are removed from the head are considered dirty and should discarded (surgical masks) or not be used again until they are washed (cotton masks)

•  Surgical masks that are not considered dirty due to the above can be used for up to 8 hours.  Cotton masks do not last as long due to the nature of the fabric but it has not been established how long these last. It is known however that the longer a mask is worn, the more wet it will get through moisture in the breath and this moisture decreases its effectiveness

  Procedure for using masks:

o  Wash or sanitize hands before and after putting on a mask as well as before and taking off the mask

o  Place mask carefully to cover mouth and nose and tie securely to minimise any gaps between the face and the mask

o  While in use, avoid touching the mask

o  Remove the mask by using appropriate technique (i.e. do not touch the front but remove the lace from behind)

o  After removal or whenever you inadvertently touch a used mask, wash or sanitize your hands 

o  Replace masks with a new clean, dry mask as soon as they become damp/humid

o  Surgical masks should be discarded immediately into a packet and sealed.

o  Cotton masks should be washed with soap and warm water (or in a washing machine on high heat if possible), dried in the sun (and ironed if possible), and stored in a clean container until needed.

2.  Gloves

•  Gloves are single use items that can protect you when touching contaminated surfaces

•  It is therefore recommended that people do not use gloves as incorrect use will increase the spread e.g. if you wear gloves whilst shopping and then still wear them when you get into your car and drive home as you will then have contaminated your car, keys etc. 

•  Washing and sanitizing hands regularly, especially when undertaking activities in public such as shopping or taking transport is preferable to using gloves.

•  If you have to use gloves, as with masks, hands should be washed or sanitized before putting on gloves and after taking them off.

*REMEMBER: Information on COVID-19 can be accessed at the data free information website: 

If you are concerned that you or someone else may have come into contact with an affected person or may have contracted the virus (showing symptoms of the disease), you can do a self-assessment on the MPILO app available on the app store which will give you advice on how to proceed. Alternatively, contact the National Corona Virus outbreak 24-hour hotline number: 0800 029 999 or send a message to the National Department of Health Whatsapp Support Line: 0600-123456.*

Compiled By:

Dr Atiya Mosam

Public Health Medicine Specialist 

(083 237 5380)

Information correct as at 02/04/2020. Please forward my messages as is and do not edit them IN ANY WAY, as this is usually what causes misconceptions. As of 18/03/2020, circulation of information meant to mislead is subject to prosecution and therefore caution should be exercised

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