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

Though cloth masks provide only minimal protection against the spread of COVID-19 and other viruses, the Centers for Illness Management and Prevention (CDC) now recommend that everyone use them when leaving the house. The hope is that this low-risk, comparatively easy intervention can make a dent within the spread of COVID-19 by individuals with no symptoms or extraordinarily gentle ones.

However masks aren’t precisely easy to return by: Medical-grade ones are already briefly supply for healthcare workers who want them, so healthy people shouldn’t even attempt to purchase them. And within the wake of the CDC’s new recommendations, even non-medical material 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 in your next essential trip out of the house—for a walk on an uncrowded road or to purchase crucial groceries, for example—here’s a guide to all your options.

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

Plenty of crafters and makers, as well as firms that normally sell different cloth products, are actually offering non-medical masks for sale. However not all of these masks are created equal. Should you’re ordering protective equipment online, right here’s what to search for:

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

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

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

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

Your mask must be easy to sanitize by boiling or throwing within the washing machine. Which means it shouldn’t have material glues, delicate supplies, or funky decorations (other than prints on the fabric). Embellishments like sequins (yes, there are folks selling sequined masks proper now) provide surfaces that viral particles can linger on for days.

Should you buy a fashionable cover to go over your masks—some stores are selling glittery cloth covers and chainmail overlays, for example—keep in mind that this outer layer is being uncovered to viral particles. You could remove it and sanitize it just like you would with the mask itself.

What a couple of balaclava or scarf?

Rachel Noble, a public health microbiologist at UNC at Chapel Hill, tells PopSci that balaclavas and other 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 straightforward to breath by as attainable, they are typically made of loose fabrics.

“You need to select a really, really tightly woven material,” Noble says. “We’re talking about something that’s approximately the density of the weave of a bandana, or a really high-high quality bedsheet.”

Jersey materials, towels, and any textiles that stretch whenever you pull them are possible too loose, she says, as are most sweaters and different knit yarns. So in case you really can’t sew or put collectively a mask with hair ties as described below, covering your nostril and mouth with a bandana tied around your face is probably slightly more effective and simpler to sanitize than a balaclava or wound-up scarf. However all of these workarounds are principally only beneficial in that they remind you to not touch your face and shield bystanders from the worst of your coughing and sneezing. In the event you’re coughing and sneezing, you should really be staying inside.

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