We asked a Doctor the how’s and why’s of wearing face masks and shields

Apr 22, 2021 0 comments



With the coronavirus pandemic raging on, face masks and face shields have become mandatory here in our country to keep us safe from the virus. But despite the growing death toll and positive cases, it’s very common to find people improperly wearing their masks and shields in public. 


Some do wear their face masks, only to keep their noses uncovered. Others wear their face shields sans the mask. Some pull down their masks to their chins and necks when speaking to others or while eating. Many even pull their face shields up to their heads as if they were a pair of sunglasses. 


It’s also not uncommon to find people out there who still don’t see the need to wear masks and especially the shields, as well as people who don’t why it’s important to use them properly. So we’ve asked Dr. Eljohn Yee, an ENT doctor specializing in Otorhinolaryngology or Head and Neck Surgery, a few questions on the how’s and the why’s of wearing masks and shields.


The How’s


The face shield has been a source of much argument for many because some find them useless while others would rather wear them without the mask. So how are face shields exactly useful in keeping us safe from the virus? “It is not recommended that one use face shields as a replacement for masks,” says Dr. Yee. “It does, however, provide marginal benefit when used with a mask.” You won’t be getting that marginal benefit if the shield is sitting atop your head.


As for face masks, how should you properly store them while eating or drinking, especially when you’re not in the safety of your home? “If you can avoid it, don’t eat in public,” he says first. “But if you have to, best to keep them in a paper bag, neatly placed where you can see it. Ideally, you can replace the mask if you think it’s been contaminated. Or you can place it in a tissue knowing where and what not to touch.”


The Why’s 


There’s always been a lot of debate when it comes to face masks, including what material it should be made of if you should double mask, and how to properly wear it. 


“It depends on what type of mask you’re using and the type of work you do,” he says when asked about double masking, adding that if you’re young and healthy or if you’re an elderly or with existing comorbidities is also a deciding factor on the matter. “I personally wear N95 masks on a daily basis—walking from where I stay to the hospital, doing essential grocery shopping and errands.”


When asked if he recommends using cloth masks that are being sold on retail these days, he quotes the recommendations given by the Philippine Society for Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, Inc., which says, “We suggest using a cloth mask that fits snugly on the face and made of at least two layers of cotton (e.g., t-shirt fabric) or non-woven nylon with aluminum nose bridge by the general public with low risk of exposure to COVID-19 in outdoor or indoor areas to prevent COVID-19 infections.” For the full summary of the recommendations, click here


“I personally suggest just sticking with the surgical mask (the blue one) regardless if it matches your outfit or not,” says Dr. Yee. “Masks made out of special material, with “negative ions”, sensitive ultrafilter cloth, added with copper or whatever element it claims may look good but personally, I’d still rather wear good old surgical mask or N95 if it’s available.”


As for why it’s wrong to pull down your mask, whatever material it’s made from, down to your chin and neck while talking, eating, or drinking, he points out that “it’s generally not very safe to touch your mask because it’s there to protect you from you-know-what. Putting it down all crumpled on your chin just exposes the very thing you’ve been trying to get away from all over the surface of your chin and cheek.”


Dr. Yee also recommends that everyone should check the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on how to properly wear masks, which can be found here.


Long story short, your face masks and face shields are your personal line of defense against the virus. Keep them on properly and you stand a chance. Should you still find them a hassle because it makes it difficult to breathe, here’s a not-so-gentle reminder you probably need:


━━ Written By Bella Javier

━━ Art By Ara May Tanagon


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