The rules on face masks are straightforward but have become muddled by the changing of guidelines. Initially, it was said that face masks are pointless when worn by the public. However, the World Health Organisation (WHO) now recommends wearing a face mask at home and in public in some instances. Critical supplies like medical face masks must be reserved for health-care workers and other medical first responders. Making your own mask is a great way to support those keeping you safe, while looking after your own health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has provided all the information you need to know about making a mask at home.
When should I wear a mask?
According to WHO, if you are not a frontline health-care worker and you are healthy, you don’t need to wear a medical face mask.
Instead, you should opt for a home-made face mask, and you should only wear this if you are coughing or sneezing, or taking care of someone who is showing symptoms of coronavirus.
CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, like supermarkets and pharmacies.
You should definitely wear a mask in areas of significant community-based transmission.
Why should I wear a mask?
The CDC explains that wearing a home-made mask is important in slowing the spread of the virus by helping to stop people who may have the virus (and do not know they have it) from transmitting it to others.
The site says: “Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure.
“Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.
“The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators.
“Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance.”
How to use a face mask
According to the WHO, you must wash your hands before you put on your mask.
This can only be done with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
Cover your mouth and nose with the mask, and make sure there are no gaps between your face and the mask.
Avoid touching the mask while using it, and clean your hands if you do.
As soon as the mask is damp, replace it with a new one.
Do not reuse a single surgical mask, but cloth masks can be safely washed and reused.
The CDC says they should be routinely washed in your washing machine depending on the frequency of use.
Remove it from the straps, without touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Wash your hands immediately after removing.
You must also maintain at least two metres distance from others while wearing a mask to make it effective.
Run a 6-inch length of 1/8-inch wide elastic through the wider hem on each side of the mask.
These will be the ear loops.
Use a large needle or a bobby pin to thread it through. Tie the ends tight.
Don’t have elastic? Use hair ties or elastic headbands. If you only have string, you can make the ties longer and tie the mask behind your head.
Gently pull on the elastic so that the knots are tucked inside the hem.
Gather the sides of the mask on the elastic and adjust so the mask fits your face.
Then securely stitch the elastic in place to keep it from slipping.