Doctors stress proper usage, sanitation of face masks

Using disinfectant spray to clean masks is not recommended.

San Antonio – As Bexar County residents are now required to wear masks in public places, local doctors are stressing the importance of properly wearing and cleaning face coverings.

“We can contract COVID-19 from people coughing, sneezing and even talking,” said Dr. Mandie Svatek with University Health System. “We don’t want to spread it in the air by doing those things, so we are protecting it from spreading into the environment.”

Dr. Fred Campbell with UT Health San Antonio said the germs are tiny droplets that enter and exit your mouth and nose when you breath out.

“None of those causes any problems to anyone else unless of course you are sick,” Campbell said. “The problem is that people with COVID-19 don’t necessarily know that they are infected.”

Svatek said first, it is important to wear the mask properly. She said do not touch the outer covering of the mask.

“If you touch something and you touch the mask, then obviously you can spread COVID-19 if we come in contact with it,” Svatek said.

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She added wearing the mask under your nose or on your chin is wrong.

“Make sure you actually have it on your face because once you put it on your chin or it kind of hangs down on your mouth, you are putting that spread on the outer part of the mask,” Svatek said.

Svatek said it is important to know when to wash your mask as well.

“If it gets all yucky and dirty, wash it, and if you used it after a day, wash it,” Svatek said. “If you are handling the mask appropriately, and not touching it, wash it after a day’s use. But if you are handling it and you touched it and touched something else, you need to wash it right after.”

By handling the mask, Svatek said instead of touching the outer covering of the mask when putting it on, only handle and adjust the mask by using the handles or the strings you use to go around your head or behind your ears.

If you have a disposable mask, there are sophisticated ways such as using ultraviolet light to clean them but Campbell said he would recommend throwing it away after it is used. He said there are multiple ways of cleaning homemade cloth masks.

“It is very simple to clean your masks,” Campbell said. “You can put your mask in the washing machine or even fill a sink up with soapy water and scrub the mask for 30 or so seconds. You can hang is up or put it in the dryer but if you do that, you have a fresh mask to use again. The key thing to use is soap. Soap actually surrounds the COVID-19 viruses and destroys them. Dissolves them.”

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More importantly, do not share your mask with anyone.

“Take care of yourself and people around you,” Svatek said. “Look at the recommendations and guidelines from the CDC. Wash your masks when needed. We want better outcomes at the end of this when we get back out in the world. We are doing the right things right now and following what we are supposed to, so we will be back stronger in the end.”

About the Authors

Japhanie Gray joined 10 News as an anchor in March 2022.

Joe Arredondo is a photojournalist at KSAT 12.

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