Mouth guard: 13 tips for correct handling

Mouth guard: 13 tips for correct handling

Because of the coronavirus, masks are mandatory in some areas, such as shopping, at the doctor’s or local public transport. In addition to disposable paper masks (surgical masks), reusable everyday masks of fabric cover the mouth and nose. But many people are still determining what to look out for when buying and wearing reusable mouth and nose protection and how to clean it. FFP2 and FFP3 masks are also widespread because they not only serve to protect others but also to protect themselves. This photo series explains the importance of masks to offer sufficient protection.

Medical masks: surgical masks and FFP2 masks

Medical masks include disposable masks, also called surgical masks, and FFP masks, which are divided into FFP2 and FFP3 masks:

  • Surgical masks protect other people from droplets and, to a lesser extent, from aerosols, but not the person wearing the mask.
  • FFP masks, i.e., particle-filtering half masks (“Filtering Face Piece”), have the most significant filter performance of all masks and serve to protect others and themselves. The masks are differentiated based on their filter performance: With FFP2 masks, the filter performance of droplets and aerosols is 94 per cent; with FFP3 masks, it is even higher at 99 per cent. The FFP2 masks are ubiquitous. This mouth and nose protection (MNS) is available in many places and is especially recommended for people belonging to the risk group.

FFP2 mask without and with valve

FFP masks are available with and without a valve to discharge the exhaled air. A mask without a valve filters the breathing air over the entire mask surface, thus simultaneously offering self-protection and that of others. On the other hand, an FFP mask with a valve primarily protects the person wearing the mask because most of the droplets and aerosols are released into the environment through the exhalation valve and are not filtered through the mask surface.

Buy FFP2 masks: Pay attention to certification.

Manufacturers of FFP masks must meet specific technical standards and legal requirements. Anyone who wants to buy an FFP2 mask should, therefore, pay attention to two types of information on the mask:

  • the European test standard EN 149:2001+A1:2009
  • CE mark with four-digit code

The European test standard EN 149:2001+A1:2009 indicates that the filter performance of the FFP2 mask material has been tested with aerosols. Accordingly, the material must have filtered at least 94 per cent of the aerosols in the test to pass the test.

The CE mark proves that the mask has successfully passed a verification (conformity assessment procedure) by a recognized body such as TÜV or DEKRA. This way, the manufacturer proves that its product meets all the necessary laws and standards – a standard procedure for medical products. Next to the CE mark is a four-digit code indicating which body carried out the verification procedure. Anyone interested can check this code on the Internet.

Still, keep your distance with a mask.

The non-medical everyday masks are foreign protection and do not protect the person who wears them from becoming infected. The same applies to surgical masks. Maintaining a distance of at least 1.50 meters from other people is critical, even when wearing a mask.

Correct fit of the mask

The mouth and nose should be covered entirely, and the mask should fit snugly at the top and bottom. This can be regulated with a wire nose clip and tie straps.

There are now more miniature masks for narrow and small faces than the standard size because the mask should be manageable for the correct fit. This is the only way to prevent air flows past the mask. Before using the mask for the first time, you should test your fit and ability to breathe freely and normally.

The Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices recommends washing your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds before wearing the mask. The inside of the mask should not be touched, but the mask should be put on and taken off via the ear loops. The outside should also not be touched when putting on or taking off. After removing the mask, washing your hands with soap is advisable.

Glasses wearer and mask

So that the glasses do not constantly fog up when wearing the mask, it is essential that the mask is put on first and that it fits snugly at the top edge. Then the glasses can be put on. If the glasses were previously cleaned with soap and not rinsed with water, this prevents the glasses from fogging up.

Do not touch the mask or face.

The mask should not be touched to prevent contamination with germs. It is all the more important that the mask fits well and sits correctly so you don’t have to touch and adjust its fit constantly. To protect against infection, it is advisable not to touch your face if possible.

change mask

If the mask is wet, it should be removed. The following applies to the duration of wearing:

  • Everyday masks should be replaced after three to four hours at the latest.
  • Surgical masks can only be worn to a limited extent and should be changed after two hours.
  • According to the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA) recommendation, FFP2 masks without a valve should be worn for a maximum of 75 minutes at a time, and FFP2 masks with a valve for a maximum of 120 minutes. A break of about 30 minutes is recommended afterwards. After eight hours or five years at the latest, or if the mask is damaged or damp, it should be replaced with a new one.

Since the coronavirus remains infectious on the masks for a long time at room temperature, the same mask should not be worn two days in a row.

Keep the mask

After removing the mask, it should be stored airtight in a bag or similar – never in your handbag – or (in the case of everyday masks) washed immediately. They should only be stored for as short a time as possible, especially to avoid mould formation.

Wash your everyday mask properly.

After a single use, everyday fabric masks should ideally be washed at 95 degrees Celsius but at least at 60 degrees Celsius. This can also be done by hand washing, or the fabric mask can be boiled in water for 15 minutes. After washing, the fabric masks must dry completely before being worn again. This works particularly well in the fresh air.

Cleaning in the oven is not recommended due to the possible fire risk.

Reuse FFP2 masks

If FFP masks are only worn briefly, they do not have to be thrown away immediately but can be reused. However, the coronavirus only loses infectivity after a few days at room temperature. There are two methods to reuse the face mask.

The easiest method is to hang the mask in a dry place at room temperature for seven days. During this time, the viral load on the mask drops by up to 95 per cent.

The second option is disinfection in the oven. According to the Münster University of Applied Sciences, which has issued recommendations for reusing FFP2 masks privately, the mask can be cleaned at 80 °C top and bottom heat for 60 minutes. To do this, place the masks at a distance from each other on a grid or oven rack with baking paper on top. Do not open the oven in between!

The disadvantage of this method: The temperature must be maintained precisely, otherwise the coronavirus will not be ultimately killed, or the mask will be damaged. A meat thermometer can help to ensure the correct temperature setting. Then, check the mask for visible damage, especially to the straps or the metal bracket. Dimensionally stable basket models and FFP2 masks with valves should not be cleaned in the oven as the heat damages the material.

Avoid dry mouth

People who wear mouthguards for many hours a day could be at increased risk of tooth decay and periodontal disease. New York dentists have expressed this assumption – which has yet to be scientifically confirmed. They call the phenomenon “mask mouth.” They guess that people who wear masks involuntarily breathe through their mouths all day. This results in a  dry mouth and a lack of saliva. This can promote oral diseases such as tooth decay because saliva neutralizes acids and thus protects our teeth.

Even if this assumption has not yet been examined in studies, people who wear a face mask for several hours a day and, therefore, develop a dry mouth and a dry throat should, as a precaution, pay attention to a moist mouth. The best way to combat dry mouth is to drink enough water. Chewing vigorously (e.g. dental care chewing gum) also stimulates saliva flow.

Avoid pimples by wearing a face mask.

If the face mask promotes the development of annoying  pimples, these five tips can help:

  1. When wearing the masks, bacteria accumulate in the material, which tends to multiply in the warm, humid environment of the breath. Ensure you use the masks hygienically: wash everyday masks regularly or replace disposable masks promptly.
  2. For everyday masks, use ones made from skin-friendly material. Linen or cotton fabrics are better for the skin than synthetic fabrics. But be careful: the fabric’s appropriate thickness or thread count is required for the mask to function.
  3. Remove the mask as often as possible so that the skin can breathe a sigh of relief now and then because the warm climate promotes the proliferation of bacteria on the skin.
  4. Avoid wearing make-up under the mask, which prevents the skin from breathing.
  5. Thoroughly clean your face with a mild, pH-neutral cleansing lotion during the day. This is how you fight bacteria and dirt particles deposited on the skin. Remember to wash your hands thoroughly beforehand!

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