Face masks have been a part of our daily lives for nearly two years now, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.
And with the highly transmissible Omicron variant circulating widely, masks are just as important as ever.
Watch the video above to see Australia’s best rapid antigen tests explained
But it’s crucial to get masking right, meaning you should wear effective masks that fit your face well.
Here’s what you need to know about finding and wearing face masks to protect yourself in 2022.
When do you need to wear a mask?
Masks are mandatory in all states and territories across Australia, with varying conditions according to each jurisdiction.
State and territory health advice currently recommends that everyone who is aged two and above should wear a face mask in wherever possible to protect themselves — and others — from the spread of COVID-19.
That’s especially true as states across the nation break records for daily new infection rates on Wednesday – with NSW recording 35,000 new cases and Victoria recording 17,000.
You might also want to consider wearing a mask in an outdoor setting if it’s crowded or you’ll be in close contact with people who aren’t fully vaccinated.
The federal health department also advises social distancing, getting fully vaccinated, avoiding physical contact (when possible), avoiding crowded places, practising good hygiene and sanitising your hand and personal properties as often as possible.
What type of mask should you wear?
When selecting a face mask, the federal government recommends following a few steps to bring the highest level of protection.
- washing or sanitising your hands before putting it on or taking it off
- ensuring the mask covers your nose and mouth and fits snugly under your chin
- avoiding touching the front of your mask while wearing or removing it
- keeping it in place – don’t hang it around your neck or under your nose
- using a new single-use mask each time
- washing and drying reusable masks after use and store in a clean dry place.
Considering just how contagious the Omicron variant appears to be, experts say the most efficient and effective masks are surgical masks – KN95s or N95s.
While N95 and KN95 masks are the most effective option, they tend to be more expensive and aren’t always easy to find — especially in kids’ sizes.
So if you don’t have access to KN95s or N95s, you can make your cloth and surgical masks more effective by double-masking (wearing the cloth mask over the surgical mask).
Or, if your cloth mask has a pocket inside, you can put a filter in the pocket to add an extra layer of protection.
And to get a better fit on your cloth or surgical mask, you could wear a mask brace on top.
Where can you find masks you can trust?
Watch out for fraudulent masks and be sure to get your masks from reputable sources. State and territory mandates differ, but some jurisdictions won’t allow makeshift masks.
For example, SA says scarves, bandannas, snoods (or ‘gaiters’) and face shields on their own are not adequate substitutes for masks.
The industry is fighting back against fake masks. One major manufacturer, 3M, launched a campaign earlier in the pandemic to help reduce counterfeit masks and price-gouging.
How can you tell if your mask is working?
To make sure your mask is actually providing protection, try performing the “flame test.” To do so, you’ll light a match or birthday candle and try to blow it out while wearing your mask. The harder it is to blow out the flame, the more protective your mask is.
– with NBC