This blog was updated on April 22. 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.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), many cases of COVID-19 are asymptomatic, meaning people don’t express symptoms even though they have the virus. Those who are asymptomatic often unknowingly spread the disease to others, which is why officials are advising everyone to wear masks in public. However, you’ve probably also seen that hospital workers are running low on personal protective equipment (PPE), so how exactly can you practice proper mask etiquette?
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.
Don’t let wearing a mask provide you with a false sense of security, as it is still recommended that you practice good health hygiene by staying home and washing your hands frequently.
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.
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.
Not only can you make these masks for you and your family, but you can also make extra masks and donate them to medical staff who are working tirelessly to heal the community. Services like Mask Match and #GetUsPPE are taking mask donations from people around the country and bringing them to hospitals that need them. If you have the resources, consider taking some time and lending aid to medical staff in their time of need.