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Revisiting masks and visiting the need for gloves

April 29, 2020

Humans, 

I thought I would revisit masks. I heard a great question on N95 masks, made an observation about how masks are being worn, and read an interesting article about gloves. This letter will assume you have already read my prior writings on masks and build from there. 

First, a question:  I have KN95 masks. Can they be reused or treated after use? The only time we use them is when we go out and this is isolated to picking up curbside at H-E-B.

You can certainly use KN95 or N95 masks multiple times. The rule of thumb is they can be used for 8 hours of continuous or intermittent use. I have used a single N95 mask for the last 3 shifts, as I only wore it for 2 pts so far so maybe 2 hrs total. For all my other patients, I wore a surgical mask.

Just remember that you should not touch the front of the mask. Only touch the straps. Read here and here for instructions again. Put it in a paper bag after use. If you are not using it for many days, then just leave the bag in your car. If you are going to use it again shortly, you can bake them. Be careful not to burn them!

A quick riff on N95 for non-medical folks. Everyone knows by now that N95 or KN95 masks (here is the difference) should be for medical professionals. But, if you have them already, then certainly use them, especially in high-risk situations. So let’s say you are a high-risk person going into a high-risk area (for example, you are in your 70’s and just had a hip replacement and are going to a follow-up medical appointment) and you have one, then wear it. I would almost rather see you use them then a DYI mask that your neighbor made.

The tricky thing about an N95 mask is for it to be maximally protective it needs to be fitted and tested. A quick and dirty way to do this is to breathe out and feel for air escaping out the sides. If air escapes, it is not sealed properly. Either readjust or you may need a different size. 

Finally, men should be cleanly shaved. Also, in an effort to keep you N95 from getting soiled, you can wear a cloth or surgical mask over your N95. Please remember that N95 masks do not give you a license to do more risky activities. We are heading into the Dance thankfully but remember we need to open up everything in a responsible manner. 

Second, an observation: Folks are crisscrossing the straps. The top one should be on the top of your head and the bottom on the bottom. I liked this image I found. 

 

How to fit a mask correctly

 

Third, an interesting article: This article discusses why wearing gloves may be counterproductive. With regard to gloves, I would much rather you have eye protection when you are in the grocery store vs gloves. You can’t get the virus through the skin on your hands but you can get it if you rub your eyes. Recall you are washing or sanitizing your hands frequently when you go to a public place and before you put on or take off your mask and eye protection. So there is really no need for gloves. Gloves are fine for cleaning a contaminated surface or for medical care works etc, but you have to know how to take them off without contaminating yourself or your surroundings. If you are using kitchen gloves or reusable gloves, then those need to be cleaned as well. So I don’t care so much about gloves and they are certainly not as helpful as something over your eyes. 

Speaking of going out, I thought this article was well written with clear thoughts about the real risks when you are out and about. 

Stay emotionally connected and physically distant,

Greg