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How to safely wear a face mask


Because of the recent increase of the number of COVID-19 cases, the Italian government has been implementing new rules to slow down the spread of the virus. Get more info on the new measures here.

As of October 8, 2020, it is mandatory for everyone in Italy to wear face masks to cover both their nose and mouth while in indoor and outdoor public spaces. This means that you also need to wear a face mask while walking in the street..

Only the following categories of people are exempted from wearing masks: children under the age of 6, people with disabilities or mental illnesses, and anyone having trouble breathing. People doing sporting activities are exempted too.

Wearing a mask helps to protect people around. It also helps to reduce the risk of being exposed to an infected person whether they have symptoms or not. However, be mindful that masks alone cannot protect yourself from COVID-19. It’s also important to ensure the respect of other measures, such as:

  • Avoiding touching your eyes
  • Washing your hands often with soap and water or alcohol based hand gel
  • Maintaining 1-meter distance from others
  • Avoiding crowded spaces, as well as hugs and handshakes.

You can use this article to learn about the existing types of face masks and how to wear them safely.

Learn more on: Coronavirus – what to know and where to get support

General tips on how to use face masks

The WHO shared some basic tips that should apply to any type of face masks: Make sure that you have your own mask and do not share it with others. Resist the temptation to pull down your mask or take it off when speaking to other people.

Do not store your mask around your arm or your wrist, and do not pull it down to rest around your chin or neck. Instead store it in a clean plastic bag.

In case of Covid-like symptoms (runny nose, fever, tiredness, and dry cough), use a mask that is certified as a medical device. If you feel unwell get in touch with a medical doctor immediately.

Click here for more information on what to do in case you do not feel well.

Medical Face Mask

Generally speaking a medical or surgical face mask, or ‘mascherina chirurgica’ in Italian, offers higher protection from virus exposure.

Surgical Mask

Surgical face masks are recommended for those who are at higher risk of developing serious symptoms, including people who are over 60, have underlying medical conditions, are feeling unwell, or who are looking after an ill family member.

Surgical masks are also for people who are suspected or confirmed to be infected to protect others from being infected. Please do remember that if you tested positive to Covid-19, you must stay at home in isolation for a minimum of 10 days and test negative at least once.

Surgical masks are for single use only and can be used for a maximum of 4-8 hours. Do not use them multiple times.

How to safely use and dispose your surgical face mask

The WHO has produced a short video to explain some basic rules to safely wear and discard your face mask. Make sure you respect them, in order to protect yourself and the others.

Here you can also find a step-by-step guide of how to safely wear your medical mask.

Fabric Face Masks

Fabric masks are non-medical masks made of cloth. It’s important you understand that fabric masks are not personal protective equipment. However, fabric masks can protect others around you if you are infected but do not show Covid-19 symptoms. Please keep in mind that fabric masks are proven to be less effective than the surgical ones.

clothe mask

Fabric masks are affordable and environment-friendly, but you have to be careful about the composition and its maintenance. Cloth face masks should:

  • Include multiple layers of fabric that allow you to breathe easily. More details on materials and composition of a suitable fabric, can be found here.
  • Fit closely but comfortably, covering nose, mouth and chin.
  • Be washed with soap (at 60 degrees) or decontaminated after every use.

How to sew your own fabric face mask

According to WHO, fabric masks should ideally have three layers, with the following characteristics:

  • Outer layer should be a water repellent material like polyester or polypropylene.
  • Middle layer can be an insert or a fabric layer (ideally made of a spun bond non-woven fabric material) and acts like a filter.
  • Inner player should be moisture absorbing fabric such as cotton.

If you want to learn how to sew your own fabric mask, you can find instructions here in English, Arabic, French, Spanish.

How to safely wear and wash a fabric face mask

You can wear a fabric mask unless you belong to a particular group at risk (children below 6, people with disabilities or having difficulties breathing). This is especially important when you can’t stay physically distanced, particularly in crowded and poorly ventilated indoor settings.

Make sure you safely use your fabric mask. Take the following steps:

Here you can also find a step-by-step guide of how to safely wear your fabric mask.

For more answers to your questions on Covid-19 and the measures implemented in Italy, you can check the FAQ of the Italian Ministry of Health.

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