Schools are starting soon, and parents are concerned about the safety of their children. There are a lot of unknowns, and like everything else in 2020, we are all learning as we go on. Some of us are trusting the system and sending our kids to school, some with cloth face masks and some without. I know a lot of us are homeschooling our kids. Either way is right as long as it’s right for our family.
By now we have learned that we are not in control of many situations, we do know that the staff and secondary school students need to wear masks at least in the hallways and common areas so we can take control of that and learn how to keep our children safe by teaching them how to use their cloth face mask in a safe manner.
Here are 5 hygiene and safety tips for the cloth face mask:
Tip #1 – Good quality and fit
Make sure your mask is made of at least two layers of tightly-woven fabric and better still, if it has a pocket for a removable filter. You should not be able to see the light through the mask… If you do, the mask is not that effective. Fit is another important factor, your mask should cover your nose and mouth comfortably so finding the right fit is tricky. One thing you can do is to measure your face or your child’s face ear to ear, going over the mouth and comparing the measurements to the measurements of the cloth face mask you are buying. With this method, you can at least know if the cloth face mask you are buying is too large or too small, but like any other clothing item, you won’t be sure until you try the mask.
Tip #2 – Everything needs a happy home especially cloth face masks
Dedicate a bag and a backpack pocket for the mask. Preferably an easily accessible pocket of the backpack. You want to encourage your child to use that pocket only for the mask bag. Avoid transferring whatever viruses or bacteria that could be on the mask to the rest of the backpack and its content, it is also important to carry the mask in a bag that can be washed easily. A cloth face mask after use is considered contaminated and needs to be stored so that it doesn’t transfer the virus particles or bacteria that could be sitting on the mask to its surroundings.
Tip #3 – Handle mask with clean hands only
That’s it. We need to let our kids know that this year one of their main activities should be washing their hands. I would go as far as getting a small hand sanitizer for their backpack in the same pocket as the mask bag so that they can easily clean their hand before touching it, they need to put their masks on their face and remove them with clean hands. They also need to clean their hands after removing their masks and putting them back in the mask bag.
Tip #4 – Face side folds in
Make sure they know how to safely put their mask on and off, always by the ear loop elastic. Adjust the mask to fit perfectly and then avoid touching the mask or their face as much as possible. This applies especially if they are reusing it during the day. Another important thing to watch for is what side goes on the face and what side is facing out, this is easy for the fitted reusable masks with a pocket but tricky with the pleated mask as both sides look identical. It’s a good habit to fold the mask in a way to have the face side folding in so it’s not in contact with anything else.
Our kids most likely use the same mask several times during the day. It is very important that they put the same side on the face. We can provide several masks for single-use during their different breaks and lunch break but let’s be real they won’t use a different mask every time.
Tip #5 – Wash and rotate
As per Health Canada, reusable cloth face masks should be washed after each use. It makes sense. Our kids may need to reuse their mask several times during the school day but it needs to be washed as soon as they get home, this is why it is important to wash the masks together with the carrier bag. We need to treat the cloth face mask as if it carries the CoronaVirus, if it did it would transfer the virus particles to the carrier bag too.
As mentioned by experts washing the masks in hot water and soap at least for 20 seconds should be enough to clean them. Laundering them in the washing machine and drying in the dryer is advised. If you hang dry the mask make sure to iron it afterwards to make sure all the virus and bacteria are killed. Remember that the masks are sitting on the mouth and they absorb all the bacteria in the mouth too so if they’re not washed those bacteria can grow in the mask and can cause other problems.
Some suggest disinfecting masks with bleach but experts say that is not necessary as long as we use soap, using bleach can cause other allergic problems for children. We do suggest having three masks and a mask bag per student for a school year to be able to wash and reuse properly. Most likely you will have to replace the masks as the elastic can wear off after a while but our mask bags will last you for many years.
At the end of the day, we all need to use our common sense. Reusable cloth face masks are quickly becoming part of our daily lives and we need to do our best to keep them both handy and clean to use and then safely clean and store them for the next use.