Coronavirus: The face mask mistakes you might be making

With face masks becoming mandatory in Victoria and residents in NSW and the ACT also being told to wear masks in places like on public transport or in supermarkets, you’ll have seen more people wearing them out and about.

However, despite various government websites, the World Health Organisation, and medical staff sharing information on how to correctly wear a face mask or covering, there are many still not wearing them right.

Young woman wears home made white cotton virus mouth face mask, wrong way, incorrect wearing - masks should cover nose as well
Many people are not wearing face masks correctly. Photo: Getty

Judging by comments on social media, if you’ve seen someone not wearing a mask correctly, you are definitely not the only one.

“So many people wear them under there nose. What good is that?” one person posted on Facebook.

“Why bother to wearing if you're not going to wear properly,” another person wrote, while memes comparing face masks to the importance wearing underwear and clothing correctly are also doing the rounds.

Most recently a popular DJ copped some heat on social media for not wearing his mask over his nose while out in public, and let’s not forget the ‘Covidiot’ influencers who were turning face masks into bikinis.

Are you wearing your face mask wrong?

Jessica Stokes-Parish, a nurse and researcher from the Hunter region, tells Yahoo Lifestyle she has seen plenty of people not using their face masks correctly.

“People storing them on their arm like a superwoman wrist protector, hanging them around their neck or off their ear,” Jessica tells us.

“I've even seen some photos on the internet of people cutting holes in them.”


Other common misuses include not covering both your nose and your mouth, leaving the face mask hanging below the chin, or wearing a mask inside out.

In the case of a disposable surgical mask, for example, the coloured side - often blue or green - should always be worn facing out, as the packet instructions should explain.

World Health Organization face mask advice
The World Health Organization shares how to not wear a mask. Photo: WHO

How does a face mask help slow the spread?

Jessica says the purpose of a face mask is to reduce the risk of viral droplets being shared between individuals.

“This works best if you have a mask that has no gaps under the chin or the cheek. Air will always find a way to leak out, that's a reality, but the less gaps you have the less risk you have of viral droplets escaping,” she explains.

“These viral droplets that you might cough or sneeze out can sit on your mask surface with you completely unaware that they are there.

“Our noses, mouths and eyes are where the infection will spread - the masks should cover the nose and the mouth to reduce the chances of the droplets getting to these areas.”

Jessica stresses masks work in combination with social distancing, so people still need to keep at least 1.5m away from others.

Why you shouldn’t touch your face mask

Another common mistake people make when it comes to any kind of face mask is touching it without proper hand hygiene before hand.

Jessica says information available on masks suggests that most contamination happens when you touch the mask or take it off.

“Let's say, for example, there are some viral droplets on the edge of your mask - each time you touch the mask or leave it hanging, you are transferring those germs to your fingers,” she explains.

“Then you touch your mouth or eyes and you are infecting yourself. Or perhaps you might share them with a person close to you.”

She recently shared a video on how to correctly place a mask on and remove it, which you can watch here:

Top tips for wearing a mask

  • Don't touch the mask once it's on

  • Use hand hygiene prior to and following applying/removing the mask

  • Store mask in a sealable bag between uses (ie. don’t shove it in your pocket or the bottom of your bag)

  • Don't share your mask

  • Wash cloth masks after use or at least daily in warm soapy water

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