Covid-19 masks: Advice issued in France on safe use

Wearing a mask when you leave the house is now recommended by medical experts in France, prompting advice on how to wear one safely and effectively. We translate some key points (translation by Connexion).

19 April 2020
By Connexion journalist

At the beginning of April, national medical body l'Académie Nationale de Médecine recommended that wearing a mask when leaving the house should be made compulsory as soon as confinement measures are lifted on May 11 (although the government has not made it compulsory, at the time of writing).

Some have already attempted to make masks compulsory - including Christian Estrosi, mayor of Nice (Alpes-Maritimes, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur).

Yet, on Friday (April 17), a ruling from the Conseil l’Etat, the country’s highest administrative court, said that French mayors did not have the power to make masks mandatory.

But already, some companies - such as train firm SNCF - have said that they are planning to make it a requirement for people using their services to wear masks after confinement ends.

Read more: Masks mandatory on trains in France post-confinement

In anticipation, many French people have already begun wearing masks when leaving the house, despite some controversy over their effectiveness.

In general, masks are not thought to offer much protection against infection from others. However, they may stop the wearer from infecting others, if the wearer is ill or an asymptomatic carrier of the virus themselves.

It is currently illegal to buy any kind of mask from pharmacies in France. As a result, hospitals and other medical establishments have published guides on how to make homemade masks, which offer a small level of protection.

Read more: Covid-19: Can I buy a mask from a pharmacy in France? 

Read more: French Medicine Academy: How to make Covid-19 mask

Read more: Covid-19: French sewing group makes masks for hospital

Now, news source FranceInfo has issued some advice on how to use and wear a mask as safely and effectively as possible. 

The advice is:

  1. Before putting on the mask, wash or disinfect your hands
  2. Pick up the mask by its ear elastics, and place it on your face, looping the elastic over your ears
  3. Fold it and adjust it to ensure that the nose and chin are well-covered
  4. Once the mask is in place, do not touch it again
  5. Wash or disinfect your hands again before taking it off

Mistakes to avoid:

  1. Wearing your mask under your nose, or not covering the end of your nose
  2. Wearing your mask without covering your chin
  3. Touching your mask once it is in place
  4. Dropping the mask below your chin, so it is almost hanging around your neck
  5. Reusing a mask without washing it first, after you have taken it off

The advice also includes ensuring that the mask is the right way up. Some medical masks have a small metal bar included - which is intended to hold the mask tightly on to the nose - so this must be the right way up to be effective.

The mask must cover your nose and mouth, but should not cause your breath to be funnelled into your eyes. 

If you wear glasses, and find that they are getting steamed up when you breathe, your mask is likely not positioned correctly.

You are advised to adjust it to avoid this as much as possible from the start, to avoid you having to adjust the mask further later on.

Once the mask is in place, you should not touch it again, as this can increase the risk of contamination. You should also not remove it to uncover your mouth, or when speaking to someone.

Surgical masks last for around four hours. Homemade masks are likely to last for much less time. Once the mask becomes moist or wet from your breath, you should replace it. 

Always try to put on and take off the mask using the ear elastics. Avoid touching the mask itself.

Masks should not be reused, especially if they are disposable. If they are reusable (such as homemade, fabric masks), they should be washed thoroughly with detergent and water, and left to dry completely, before being re-used.

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