A guide to buying (or making) a face mask for COVID-19

Although cloth masks provide only minimal protection in opposition to the spread of COVID-19 and other viruses, the Centers for Illness Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommend that everyone use them when leaving the house. The hope is that this low-risk, relatively straightforward intervention can make a dent in the spread of COVID-19 by individuals with no signs or extremely mild ones.

However masks aren’t exactly simple to come back by: Medical-grade ones are already in brief supply for healthcare workers who want them, so healthy people shouldn’t even attempt to purchase them. And in the wake of the CDC’s new recommendations, even non-medical cloth masks are sold out or backordered in lots of online stores. If you happen to’re attempting to determine if and how you should cover your face on your subsequent essential trip out of the house—for a walk on an uncrowded avenue or to purchase necessary groceries, for instance—right here’s a guide to all your options.

Things to search for and avoid when shopping for a material masks

Plenty of crafters and makers, as well as corporations that usually sell other material products, are now offering non-medical masks for sale. However not all of those masks are created equal. When you’re ordering protective equipment online, right here’s what to search for:

Don’t purchase medical-grade, filtering masks unless you’re immunocompromised or are caring for somebody sick with COVID-19. Hospitals are experiencing extreme shortages of those masks, and they don’t seem to be shown to provide significant protection for healthy individuals.

Your mask should cover your nose and mouth and should have fastenings that preserve it firmly in place while you speak, move, and breathe. If you have to touch your face to adjust your masks, you risk exposing your nose or mouth to germs.

Ideally, the mask ought to have some type of adjustable band to reduce gaps between your nose and your cheeks.

The simplest fabrics are water resistant and tightly-woven—not stretchy or sheer. A tightly-woven cotton is the following finest thing, and your mask ought to have not less than layers of it.

Your masks must be easy to sanitize by boiling or throwing within the washing machine. That means it shouldn’t have cloth glues, delicate supplies, or funky decorations (apart from prints on the fabric). Elaborations like sequins (yes, there are individuals selling sequined masks right now) provide surfaces that viral particles can linger on for days.

When you buy a fashionable cover to go over your mask—some stores are selling glittery material covers and chainmail overlays, for example—do not forget that this outer layer is being exposed to viral particles. You must remove it and sanitize it just like you would with the masks itself.

What a few balaclava or scarf?

Rachel Noble, a public health microbiologist at UNC at Chapel Hill, tells PopSci that balaclavas and different warm-climate gear designed to cover your nose and mouth are unlikely to be suitable for preventing the spread of COVID-19. Because they’re designed to be as easy to breath by means of as doable, they are typically made of loose fabrics.

“You wish to choose a really, really tightly woven cloth,” Noble says. “We’re speaking about something that’s approximately the density of the weave of a bandana, or a really high-quality bedsheet.”

Jersey fabrics, towels, and any textiles that stretch when you pull them are doubtless too loose, she says, as are most sweaters and other knit yarns. So if you happen to really can’t sew or put collectively a masks with hair ties as described beneath, covering your nose and mouth with a bandana tied round your face is probably slightly more effective and easier to sanitize than a balaclava or wound-up scarf. However all of those workarounds are largely only beneficial in that they remind you not to touch your face and shield bystanders from the worst of your coughing and sneezing. Should you’re coughing and sneezing, you must really be staying inside.

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