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

Although fabric masks provide only minimal protection in opposition to the spread of COVID-19 and different viruses, the Centers for Disease Management and Prevention (CDC) now advocate that everyone use them when leaving the house. The hope is that this low-risk, comparatively simple intervention can make a dent in the spread of COVID-19 by people with no signs or extraordinarily delicate ones.

But masks aren’t exactly straightforward to come by: Medical-grade ones are already in short provide for healthcare workers who need them, so healthy individuals 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 on-line stores. If you happen to’re attempting to determine if and how it is best to cover your face on your next essential trip out of the house—for a stroll on an uncrowded avenue or to buy obligatory groceries, for instance—right here’s a guide to all of your options.

Things to search for and keep away from when shopping for a cloth masks

A lot of crafters and makers, as well as firms that usually sell other fabric products, are now offering non-medical masks for sale. However not all of those masks are created equal. When you’re ordering protective equipment on-line, right here’s what to look for:

Don’t buy medical-grade, filtering masks unless you might be immunocompromised or are caring for someone sick with COVID-19. Hospitals are experiencing excessive shortages of these masks, and they are not shown to provide significant protection for healthy individuals.

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

Ideally, the masks should have some type of adjustable band to attenuate gaps between your nostril and your cheeks.

The best materials are waterproof and tightly-woven—not stretchy or sheer. A tightly-woven cotton is the following greatest thing, and your mask ought to have at least layers of it.

Your masks should be straightforward to sanitize by boiling or throwing in the washing machine. That means it shouldn’t have fabric glues, delicate materials, or funky decorations (apart from prints on the material). Gildings like sequins (sure, there are folks selling sequined masks proper now) provide surfaces that viral particles can linger on for days.

For those who buy a fashionable cover to go over your masks—some stores are selling glittery material covers and chainmail overlays, for instance—keep in mind that this outer layer is being uncovered to viral particles. You should remove it and sanitize it just such as you would with the masks itself.

What about a balaclava or scarf?

Rachel Noble, a public health microbiologist at UNC at Chapel Hill, tells PopSci that balaclavas and other warm-weather gear designed to cover your nostril and mouth are unlikely to be suitable for stopping the spread of COVID-19. Because they’re designed to be as straightforward to breath by means of as potential, they are typically made of loose fabrics.

“You need to choose a really, really tightly woven material,” 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 probably too loose, she says, as are most sweaters and other knit yarns. So in the event you really can’t sew or put collectively a masks with hair ties as described below, covering your nostril and mouth with a bandana tied round your face is probably slightly more effective and simpler to sanitize than a balaclava or wound-up scarf. However all of those workarounds are principally only helpful in that they remind you not to contact your face and shield bystanders from the worst of your coughing and sneezing. If you happen to’re coughing and sneezing, you need to really be staying inside.

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