When giving first aid to a sick or injured person you should try to minimise the risks to yourself, the patient, and any helpers or bystanders.

COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) – face mask and hygiene advice

The information on the page was last reviewed 21 February 2020. Information credit: Ministry of Health.

Basic hygiene measures are the most important way to stop the spread of infections, including the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Basic hygiene measures include:

  • hand hygiene – that is, washing hands regularly with soap and water, or cleansing with hand sanitiser
  • staying at home if you are sick
  • coughing or sneezing into a tissue or your elbow and then performing hand hygiene
  • cleaning surfaces regularly.

The use of personal protective equipment (PPE), such as face masks can reduce the spread of infection when used correctly and in the appropriate context. This may be recommended in workplaces where people are more likely to come in contact with the disease.

Use of face masks

For most people in the community, PPE such as face masks are not recommended. However, for people with symptoms of an acute respiratory infection, the WHO recommends that there may be benefit in wearing a face mask to reduce the spread of infection to other people.

How to correctly wear and remove a face mask

If you are unwell or have a job which requires you to be in close contact with people who may have coronavirus, it is recommended you use a face mask. It is important that face masks are worn and removed correctly. Masks should fit snugly and fully cover your nose and mouth.

How to wear a mask:

  • wash hands with soap and water or use hand sanitiser
  • place over nose, mouth and chin
  • fit flexible nose piece over nose bridge
  • secure on head with ties or elastic
  • adjust to fit – secure on your head, fitting snugly around your face with no gaps
  • avoid touching or adjusting your mask during use.

How to remove a mask:

  • wash hands with soap and water or use hand sanitiser
  • avoid touching the front of the mask
  • if the mask has ties, untie the bottom, then top tie
  • remove from face
  • discard, do not use again
  • wash hands with soap and water or use hand sanitiser immediately.

Use of PPE in the workplace

  1. Workplaces where people can maintain more than 1 metre contact distance from people with potential COVID19 symptoms – Facemasks and gloves are not recommended.
    Examples of these workplaces include – education facilities, pharmacies, retail outlets
  2. People who, due to the nature of their job, may be unable to maintain more than 1 metre contact distance from people with potential COVID19 symptoms – facemasks and gloves are recommended when this contact is likely to occur.
    Examples of these workplaces include – Police, prison staff, customs staff

These recommendations are a guide only and workplace settings not listed in the table should consider their ability to maintain the 1 metre rule and use the table to inform their use of PPE. In general, surgical/medical masks prevent the dispersal of droplets by an infected patient and the inhalation of droplets if within 1 metre of a coughing individual.

Hand hygiene and cough / sneeze etiquette (maintain distance, cover coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues and wash hands) will have a bigger impact.


Ten basic rules for first aid

  1. When possible, wash your hands with soap and water and apply disposable latex gloves before touching a wound, blood or other body fluids.
  2. In the case of serious bleeding, where there is no time to obtain or apply gloves, it is still possible to control the blood loss without having any direct contact with blood. Place your hands in plastic bags, and use the patient’s hands to apply pressure.
  3.  If you have any cuts or wounds on your hands, ensure that they are fully covered by a waterproof dressing.
  4.  Cover your mouth/nose during any treatment of a patient with a potentially serious infection (e.g. tuberculosis) to avoid inhaling infected droplets.
  5.  If you are splashed with blood or other body fluids, wash the area thoroughly with soap and water as soon as possible. Then contact your doctor for specific medical advice.
  6. If any of your clothing has been contaminated by body fluids, remove it promptly and immerse it in a container of household bleach, mixed according to and following the instructions on the label.
  7.  Safely dispose of any used dressings, bandages and disposable gloves by placing into a plastic or paper bag, and sealing well before putting it into a rubbish bin or burning.
  8.  If there is a hospital or medical clinic nearby, the dressings can be disposed of in a medical Hazardous Waste bin where they will be correctly and incinerated.
  9.  Used instruments, such as scissors or splinter forceps, should be cleaned thoroughly under running cold or warm water. Serrated edges should be scrubbed with a fine nailbrush under running water. The articles should then be disinfected, preferably by immersion in a 1:80 bleach solution.
  10. After removing disposable gloves always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. Dry your hands well to avoid cracking of the skin.

Rules for wound care

  • Wash your hands thoroughly and always apply disposable gloves.
  • A wound containing dirt or other contaminants should be cleaned with either an antiseptic solution or soap and water. Check the expiry date of any solution you wish to use and DO NOT use if past the expiry date.
  • The wound should be dried thoroughly before the dressing is applied.
  • Avoid direct finger or hand contact with the wound or the central part of the sterile dressing.
  • Apply a light dressing to the wound and secure it with a bandage or tape.
  • If the dressing is accidentally dropped or slips off the wound, apply a fresh one at once.
  • If the wound has any obvious discharge present, use an absorbent dressing on top of the first sterile dressing and bandage it in place firmly.
  • After securing the wound dressing, remove your gloves and wrap them with any soiled dressings and put them in a plastic or paper bag. The bag should be placed in a covered disposal bin or in a Hazardous Waste container.

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