At this point, many Americans are wearing masks whenever they are out in public, as per the recommendations of the CDC, WHO and the FDA.  As we’ve come to learn more about the nature of the novel coronavirus, we’ve discovered that transmission can occur via droplets that are emitted when we cough or sneeze. Wearing a face covering such as the KN95 masks for sale on many web sites can help prevent the spread of airborne bacteria and viruses.

But, what happens if you cough or sneeze while you’re wearing your protective mask?  All of the  organizations referred to above have yet to speak on the topic, but there are some common sense procedures that you can do to ensure that you do so in a way that’s as safe as possible for the people around you.

Knowing what to do in this case is important especially now, as allergy season is peaking throughout most of the country, and many of us find ourselves sneezing and coughing due to the high amount of pollen that surrounds us.

Who is a Mask Protecting?

The first thing that you must keep in mind is that the intention of wearing a mask is to protect others, not yourself.  When we sneeze or cough, droplets can be released into the air several feet around us, and if we are infected, those droplets can infect others.  Wearing a mask drastically reduces the chance of those droplets spreading onto others, and onto surfaces that will thus become contaminated.

Now, it’s important to bear in mind that different kinds of mask materials have different levels of protection.  Wearing a mask made from a thin, porous t-shirt material, for instance, won’t be as useful when you cough or sneeze as, say, an N95 mask, because the droplets are far more likely to pass through the barrier of the material.  If you happen to have an infection or allergies that are causing you to cough or sneeze more than usual, you should really consider investing in a mask made from a more protective material.

Try to Take if Off Beforehand

If you are able to, remove your mask when you are about to cough or sneeze, and do so into your elbow.  Then, use a disinfectant like a hand sanitizer to sanitize the area into which you coughed or sneezed.  After that, you can put your mask back on securely.  This method ensures that the mask itself never becomes contaminated, so that it can continue to fulfill its function while you’re wearing it.

Don’t Turn Your Head

Many of us automatically turn our head when we’re about to cough or sneeze, to avoid doing so directly in front of us.  While this habit is logical, it should be avoided if you’re masked up.  This will increase the chances of the droplets coming out of the sides of the mask rather directly into the mask material.  So, while it may not feel like the right thing to do, it’s recommended that you cough or sneeze head on, directly into the mask.

Don’t Touch Your Mask After You’ve Sneezed or Coughed in It

If you’ve coughed or sneezed into your mask, and you are infected, your mask will now be contaminated.  But, unless someone is physically touching your mask, this won’t cause you to transmit the infection to others.  However, it’s important that you do not touch your mask after you have coughed or sneezed while you’re still out in public, because this would contaminate your hands, drastically increasing the chances of infecting surfaces or other people.

Wash Your Mask Regularly

Of course, whether you’re infected or not, you must wash your mask regularly.  Many people opt for multiple masks that they rotate, as this allows them to always have a freshly washed one ready to go.  If you are able to, it’s suggested that you wash your mask each time you return from being out in public.

Final Thoughts

Coughing and sneezing are common symptoms this time of year, but most of us have never coughed or sneezed while wearing a protective mask.  Should this happen to you, there are some simple tips to follow in order to be as safe as possible.  Use this guide so that you can know exactly what to do.


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