SINGAPORE (May 29): All the health and wellness news you need to help you navigate these uncertain times.

Keep your distance

Italian company IK Multimedia — best known for its music technology products — has created the Safe Spacer, a lightweight monitor to help people be aware of social distancing in a time when Covid-19 is a major worry. This lightweight, battery-powered device — similar to the Apple Watch but can be worn either on the wrist, on a lanyard or a keychain — uses ultra-wideband technology (UWB) to sense when other devices breach the wearer’s two metre wide personal space.

Basically, if you are too close to another Safe Spacer user, it will alert both devices with either flashing lights, vibrations or an audio alarm. IK Multimedia’s CEO Enrico Lori said: “We created Safe Spacer to help our Italian factory workers maintain safe distance during re-opening. It’s easy to use, fast to deploy, private and secure, so it can be used comfortably in any situation. We hope this solution helps other companies feel secure as they re-open, too.”

Developers also said the device, powered by a patent pending algorithm, can sense measurements down to approximately 10cm. This, they add, is 10 times more accurate than Bluetooth applications. The Safe Spacer even maintains its accuracy when multiple devices are in close proximity. It also features a unique ID tag and built-in memory that allows tracing of any accidental contacts, keeping organisations secure. An iOS and Android app is available to allow companies or safety departments to associate IDs to specific workers. This means the device can help to log daily tracing without collecting sensitive data, configure the alarms, set custom distance and even export log data to the relevant authorities when needed. The Safe Spacer will be on sale later this year.

Cover up

So, you have to wear a mask during this period. If so, are you wondering how to choose the right one? For example, will the mask slip off easily or is it suffocating? Masks maybe everyday accessories in parts of Asia but those not accustomed to wearing them might find the experience unnerving, daunting even. Here are some tips for the uninitiated.

Which one to choose?

Unless you are a frontline health worker you do not need a respirator like the N95 or FFP2, experts say. Leave those for the professionals. When it comes to other types of masks, the advice has shifted with the understanding of the epidemic. Initially, authorities and the World Health Organization (WHO) said it was useless for the general population to wear masks in public.

Now it is increasingly recommended as part of the public health toolbox, along with frequent handwashing and physical distancing. With medical personal protective equipment off the table, authorities have suggested people buy or make their own fabric face coverings. The WHO has expressed doubts that these will offer full protection for the wearer, but notes that they could stop an unknowingly infected person from passing the virus on to others. This matters because a significant minority of people with Covid-19 do not have any symptoms at all.

Masks are important now and those wanting to make their own have no shortage of tutorials online for inspiration. For example, the website of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in the US even has instructions for how to make a no-sew mask by cutting up a t-shirt! Some countries have also published manufacturing standards — even for homemade masks. In France, authorities recommend that they should be made from at least two layers of flexible and, importantly, breathable fabric. There should not be vertical seams where it fits to the mouth, nose and chin to avoid leakage.

Masks produced for sale by textile manufacturers — following either a duckbill or pleated pattern — must filter between 70%–90% of particles expelled by the wearer that are three microns in diameter. The average human hair is roughly 80 microns thick. However, infants should not wear masks because of the risk of suffocation. Regulations as to the exact age threshold depends on the country.

The right fit

Once you have purchased or made your mask, there are some simple tips for wearing it comfortably and safely. The main thing to remember is that a face covering does not replace other key virus avoidance measures: Soap and social distancing. It also goes without saying, but the mask should be worn on your face — not hung around the neck like a scarf, nor on the forehead like a bandana. This risks contamination. You also should not share your mask with others.

Before you out using your mask, first wash your hands. Then holding the mask by its strings, fit it snugly over your mouth, nose and chin and fasten it in place. With surgical type masks, there is sometimes a rigid bar that goes over the bridge of the nose and can be pinched to fit the face. It is important to ensure it fits comfortably — a badly-fitted mask risks slippage and discomfort, tempting you to touch your face.

Remember: If you do need to adjust the mask while out, you will need to wash your hands first. Single-use surgical masks can normally be worn for a maximum of a few hours before they should be replaced, depending on the type. It should be discarded earlier if it becomes wet or damaged. In France, the rules state even non-disposable masks should be worn only for around four hours, meaning you would need to pack several if planning to be using them all day. When taking off the mask, first wash your hands.Holding it by the fasteners, remove the mask without touching the potentially contaminated front section. Finally, wash your hands.

After use

Single use surgical masks should be discarded after use, preferably in a closed bin. But for fabric models, washing instructions vary by country. The CDC says they should be washed regularly — after each time they are worn — using a mild detergent, then “dried completely in a hot dryer”.

In France, the advice is at least 30 minutes in a 60 degrees celsius machine wash. You should then dry it either in a machine or open air, then ironing before use. Putting the mask in the freezer or microwave to try to kill the virus is not recommended. This is because fabric masks have a shelf life as the material degrades with washing. Another thing to note — at the slightest sign of wear, throw it away