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Unmasking the Truth Behind Masks


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), many cases of COVID-19 are asymptomatic, meaning people don’t show symptoms even though they have the virus. Those who are asymptomatic may unknowingly spread the virus to others, which is why officials are advising everyone to wear masks in public.

The Dos and Don’ts of Wearing a Mask

  • Don’t use N95 masks, as these are what medical professionals are using to protect themselves. Proper PPE equipment is currently in high demand, so save the N95s for those in the hospitals.
  • Do buy basic masks, like dust masks, or utilize some household items to make your own. There are numerous sewing patterns you can use and even a no-sew option for those without a sewing machine at home. Here are a few tips when making your own mask:
    • Be sure to balance filtration and breathability when selecting fabrics (vacuum bags are great for filtration but make breathing difficult, and cotton t-shirts are extremely breathable but lack a high level of filtration). However, use what you have on hand, as a 2013 study found that well-fitting homemade masks made of cotton T-shirts provided some protection. Some people even recommend using car-washing towels or dish towels.

Filtration Efficiency

Mask Effectiveness Infographic

Credit: SmartAirFilter.com

Breathability

Breathability Infographic

Credit: SmartAirFilter.com

  • Don’t use a mask with a one-way valve or vents As they can result in expelled respiratory droplets that can reach others. This type of mask does not prevent the person wearing the mask from transmitting COVID-19 to others. Therefore, CDC does not recommend using masks for source control if they have an exhalation valve or vent.
  • Don’t assume that a mask alone prevents infection. In fact, officials have reiterated that masks work only when you are practicing good hand hygiene ,washing your hands frequently, and avoiding large crowds.
  • Do be sure that you are wearing and using proper practices when wearing and taking your mask on and off:
    • Try to keep a tight seal around the bridge of your nose.
    • The bottom of the mask should cover your chin.
    • Wash your hands prior to putting on and taking off your mask.
    • When taking your mask off, grab it by the ear straps and remove it without touching the exterior. Store your face covering in a breathable bag, like a paper bag.
    • Disinfect your mask after use by washing it in hot water and either hanging it outside in the sun to dry or putting it in the dryer on high heat. Don’t use disinfectants containing alcohol or chlorine, as these can reduce filtration efficiency over time.

If you’re ever feeling under the weather, staying home is always the best bet. Our doctors at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Group now offer virtual visits, so you can be seen quickly from the comfort of your own home. For more information about COVID-19 and resources about what to do if you think you have this virus, take a look at our Information Hub to learn more.

Sources:
Washington Post | Which DIY mask pattern should you use? Even experts can’t pick one to recommend.
Stanford Medicine | PPE FAQs
COVID-19 ATX Exchange | BIY Mask Designs
OSCMS - Face Masks
NCBI | Testing the efficacy of homemade masks: would they protect in an influenza pandemic?
Smart Air Filters | What Are The Best Materials for Making DIY Masks?
Fast Company | What is a mask valve, and why are cities banning them?

This blog was updated on August 19. Because the situation surrounding COVID-19 is constantly evolving, some information may not be up to date. Stay informed by following information from your local officials and by visiting the CDC website.

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