Homemade Face Masks Won’t Fully Protect You From COVID-19, But They Can Help Minimize The Risk

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N95 Face Mask

The entire world is currently on a massive shortage of N95 protective respirator masks. As the COVID-19 virus continues to spread across the globe at a massive rate, fewer and fewer protective supplies are available, and N95 masks are at the forefront.

Hospitals and clinics are in desperate need for protective masks. With that said, people have begun sewing their own DIY protective face masks. While these DIY masks can’t protect you from contracting COVID-19, they can offer a ton of help in minimizing the risk of contracting the virus — as long as you are aware of their limitations.

Via: Ebay

N95 respirator masks differ from other types of surgical masks and face masks because they create a tight seal between the respirator and your face, which helps filter at least 95% of airborne particulates. They might include an exhalation valve to make it easier to breathe while wearing them. Coronavirus can linger in the air for up to 30 minutes and be transmitted from person to person through vapor (breath), coughing, sneezing, saliva and transfer over commonly touched objects.

Each model of N95 mask from each manufacturer is certified by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. These masks must adhere to a very strict set of guidelines in order to be produced.

The DIY projects that provide patterns and instructions for sewing face masks at home tell you to use materials like multiple layers of cotton, elastic bands and ordinary thread.

Man of the patterns contain simple folds with elastic straps to fit over your ears. Some are more contoured to resemble the shape of N95 masks. While others contain pockets where you can add “filter” that you can purchase elsewhere.

Via – Ebay

It’s the belief of people who make their own masks that adding filters will help protect against transmission. However, there isn’t strong evidence that the masks will conform to the face tightly enough to form a strong seal, or that the filter material inside will work effectively. Standard surgical masks, for example, are known to leave gaps.

Many of the DIY masks that are being sewn, were designed to keep larger particles out of ones airways. Such as car exhaust, dust, etc.

These DIY masks are however, great for children and adults as a reminder to keep their hands away from their mouths. This sort of protection can be just as important as wearing an N95 mask. Many of us touch our faces hundreds of times a way, without even noticing it. With the COVID-19 virus spreading fast and cases becoming more and more locally to most – it is very important to not touch your hands to your mouth or nose. These DIY masks are a great way to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Here’s what one CDC site has to say about homemade masks:

In settings where face masks are not available, HCP might use homemade masks (e.g., bandana, scarf) for care of patients with COVID-19 as a last resort [our emphasis]. However, homemade masks are not considered PPE, since their capability to protect HCP is unknown. Caution should be exercised when considering this option. Homemade masks should ideally be used in combination with a face shield that covers the entire front (that extends to the chin or below) and sides of the face.

A different page on the CDC site appears to make an exception, however, for conditions where no N95 masks are available, including homemade masks.

HCP use of non-NIOSH approved masks or homemade masks
In settings where N95 respirators are so limited that routinely practiced standards of care for wearing N95 respirators and equivalent or higher level of protection respirators are no longer possible, and surgical masks are not available, as a last resort, it may be necessary for HCP to use masks that have never been evaluated or approved by NIOSH or homemade masks. It may be considered to use these masks for care of patients with COVID-19, tuberculosis, measles, and varicella. However, caution should be exercised when considering this option.

If you are going to use a DIY mask, simply know the limitations. It won’t fully protect you, but it will offer aid. If you are going to wear a DIY mask, simply make sure you wash the mask prior to use. After use, wash it again.