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How to safely take off PPE

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We all know how important it is to protect ourselves and others with personal protective equipment during the time of COVID-19. What we know less about is how to make sure we’re wearing our masks correctly, or better yet, taking them off safely. While you might think that putting on and taking off PPE is pretty straightforward, chances are you’re not fully informed about the dangers of improperly worn, stored, or removed PPE. “Doffing” or taking off your PPE requires care. You don’t want to end up exposing yourself to harm simply because you’re not sure what the right way to remove a face mask is. If you have questions about the proper “doffing” technique, here are a few tips for safer PPE removal.

Sanitize First

By now, hand sanitizer has become a staple in every household. That said, it can be difficult to remember to sanitize or wash your hands every time you re-enter the house. Creating a routine can be helpful, especially if you tend to get distracted on returning or if you’re coming home with your hands full of groceries and supplies. Before you do anything, sanitize or wash your hands. Keep your mask on while you’re sanitizing or washing any produce to avoid contamination.

Dispose Immediately

If you’re wearing a single-use mask, such as an N95, disposing of it safely is important. Ideally, if you have a trash can with a secure covering, you can remove your mask by hooking your fingers in the ear loops and placing it in the trash receptacle. If you have a child, make sure you both wash your hands and remove their mask first. While some users feel that it’s fine to remove a mask while still in public or in the common area of an apartment complex, the CDC recommends that you wait until you’re in the privacy of your own home to dispose of your mask.

Wash Cloth Masks Frequently 

If you’re using a reusable mask, keeping it clean and uncontaminated is of the essence. While it’s not necessary to sanitize your mask while you’re out in public, this should be one of your first steps once you’re safely back home, unless you plan to throw your mask straight into the laundry. If you do plan on putting your cloth masks through the wash, make sure you’re only mixing it with other articles of clothing that aren’t going to have contact with your face, such as socks and underwear. Ideally, you should be washing your mask every few days.

Touch the Sides, Not the Mask Itself

It might be tempting to simply rip off your mask the minute you step in the door, but this could be dangerous. Touching the part of the mask that has been exposed to the elements could end up transferring those germs straight to your hands, especially if you haven’t washed or sanitized them. As hard as it might be, waiting to remove your mask until you’re in a safe location is recommended for everyone at this point.

 

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