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Are you washing your mask frequently enough? Health officials discuss risks of improper mask care

Local health officials are reminding people to properly care for their face masks. 

As news channel 3’s Madison Weil reports, not washing or changing a mask frequently enough has its own set of risks. 

“When people touch their mask with their hands, unfortunately our hands harbor organisms,” said Steve Hermann RN, Infection Prevention Manager, Desert Regional Medical Center. Hermann says it’s unlikely you would get sick from your mask, but they can harbor bacteria, dust or pathogens if not cleaned properly. 

If you’re using a disposable mask, health officials are reminding the public those are designed for one use only and should be thrown out at the end of the day. 

“The mask will get wet it becomes ineffective and then can become difficult on the face in terms of breakdown of the skin” said Dr. Euthym Kontaxis, Director, Emergency Department, Eisenhower Health. 

As the pandemic continues, many are opting for reusable, washable masks instead. Officials say it’s important to remember to wash these frequently or else bacteria can actually build up inside. 

“You can get bacteria buildup, you can also get dust particles on your mask so the key is keeping it as clean as possible,” added Hermann.

The build up of moisture and bacteria can also cause problems with your skin. “Sometimes you can get what we call “mask-ne” or acne around the mask, buildup of oils,” said Dr. Kontaxis.  

The CDC recommends including your reusable masks with your regular laundry. Use regular laundry detergent and the warmest water setting possible. Also use the highest heat setting and leave it in the dryer until the mask is completely dry. 

Health officials also recommend placing your mask in a paper bag if you need to remove it for a meal break. And never place a mask on a public surface. 

“Unfortunately a table surface at a restaurant or other facility -- yes they may have sanitized it but people may come by and touch it with their hands,” said Hermann. 

Once you’re done wearing a mask, remove it properly by grabbing it by the ear loops and then throw it directly in the trash or washing machine. 

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Madison Weil

Madison Weil joined the KESQ News Channel 3 and CBS Local 2 News Team in June 2018. Learn more about Madison here.

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