Of all the things you can do right now to protect yourself and others from getting the novel coronavirus, wearing a face covering properly tops the list. 

Why? Because wearing a face covering over your nose and mouth goes a long way towards preventing infectious particles from infecting another person.

Here’s how it works: COVID-19 spreads from person to person. An infectious person expels infectious particles while sneezing, talking, laughing, yelling, coughing or singing. An infectious person can even spread infectious particles just by breathing. 

The louder you talk, the more droplets you spread to others. Coughing emits more infectious particles than talking, and sneezing is even worse. Since many people with COVID-19 never show symptoms, many people are infected that may not know it. Wearing a mask limits the spread of potentially infectious particles.

Wearing a face covering does not just help others — it limits your own exposure, too.

According to a study in Hong Kong, wearing a mask in public was effective for the SARS coronavirus (a virus very similar to the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19). The study found that people who frequently wore a mask in public were half as likely to be infected. 

How Important is Wearing a Mask Correctly? Very!

Masks work — if worn properly. Your best bet is a double-layered cotton mask which will block 70% of infectious particles (respiratory droplets), if worn properly. 

Be sure that your mask covering your mouth and nose. To prevent spreading infectious particles, keep your mask over your mouth and nose. If you drop your mask to talk, you will spread droplets. If you are having trouble making yourself heard through the mask, speak up. It is not helpful to bring your mask to an event and then wear it around your neck.

Do not touch the front of your mask. By touching the front of your mask, you might infect yourself. Do not touch the front of your mask while you’re wearing it. After taking your mask off, it’s still not safe to touch the front of it. Once you have washed the mask in a normal washing machine, the mask is safe to wear again. 

Can masks cause carbon dioxide poisoning?

Absolutely not, although you may have heard that wearing a mask may cause carbon dioxide poisoning. The face mask might hold a very small amount of carbon dioxide, but the carbon dioxide can pass through the holes on the sides and even the pores of the material itself. Humans inhale trace amounts of carbon dioxide all day long and suffer no issues.

An extremely high level of carbon dioxide would need to build up to cause a problem. So no, wearing a mask should not cause carbon dioxide poisoning. 

So How do I Correctly Wear a Face Mask?

Here are some simple “Do’s and Don’ts” to keep in mind:


» Wash mask after use in hot water and dry thoroughly
» Wash hands for 20 second prior to putting on and after taking off your mask
» Still practice social distancing when wearing a mask
» Make sure it fits snugly but comfortably against the side of your face
» Make sure it covers your mouth and nose


» Touch or adjust the mask once it is on your face, this can cause contamination 
» Wear it longer than four hours when possible
» Take the mask on and off – once on, leave on
» Touch your eyes, nose or mouth when removing the mask
» Place on young children under the age of two

What Else do I Need to do to Prevent Getting the Virus?

In addition to wearing a face mask, be aware of your surroundings and use good sense. Encourage smart COVID-19 prevention practices that include:

» Maintaining six feet of separation from others when you can
» Washing your hands with soap and water frequently.
» Avoid touching your face
» If you are not feeling well, protect others from COVID-19 by staying home 

For more information about how you can prevent getting and spreading the coronavirus and what steps the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department is taking to protect our communities, please visit: https://publichealthsbc.org/.

Dr. Henning Ansorg, M.D., FACP is a graduate of Justus-Liebig-University Medical School Giessen, Germany. He completed Residency training in Munich, Germany and Tucson, Arizona and is board certified in Family Practice (Germany) and Internal Medicine (USA). Dr. Ansorg is a Diplomate of the American Board of Internal Medicine and a Fellow of the American College of Physicians and is on the medical staff at Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara. He has many years of experience in different clinical settings including 10 years of private practice and urgent care in Munich, Germany as well as 11 years of internal medicine/geriatrics in Arizona as well as four years at the Santa Barbara County Health Care Center. Dr. Ansorg has served as Public Health Officer for Santa Barbara County since April 2019.

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