The CDC recommends that everyone
sick or healthy wears a cloth face mask in places where it can be hard to stay 6 feet
away from others, like grocery stores.
However, the following people shouldn’t wear masks:
under 2 years
who have trouble breathing
who can’t move or take off a mask without help
How Face Masks Work
When someone who has
COVID-19 coughs, sneezes, or talks, they send tiny droplets with the
coronavirus into the air. A face mask covers your mouth and nose blocking the release of virus-
filled droplets into the air hence helping slow the spread of COVID-19
Types of Face Masks for Coronavirus
Masks for health care workers
N95 respirator masks
They are made from cloth-like
filter material that protects wearers from inhaling infectious organisms. They filter out 95% or more of
the smallest particles in the air. But they have to fit tightly and correctly around your face in order to work efficiently.
These masks are the equivalent to the
N95 respirators. With the widespread shortage of the N95 the KN95 are becoming
- Surgical masks
They are made from a thin, paper-
like material and are often blue with white borders. These masks are not considered respirators,
they do not filter out particles to the extent that N95 and KN95. They only shield against the large droplets, that come from a sick person’s
cough or sneeze. Because of their loose fit they don’t provide an absolute barrier
against the coronavirus, but they do help trap infectious respiratory
secretions hence can be a vital tool in helping prevent the spread of the virus
to others in your surroundings.
Masks for non-health care workers
These masks are sewn from cotton fabrics and structured to look like
surgical masks. Cloth masks are best for people who don’t work in health care, so as to spare masks for those who need them most. When making a cloth
- You use at least two
layers of material.
- You might add a pocket for a filter. Be sure to take it out before
you wash the mask.
- Add a copper or wire ribbon on the nose of the mask to help it fit
Not to be confused with the N95
respirator as they look similar. The dust mask is made from a flexible paper
pad and only filters out dust particles and not infectious organisms.
- Neoprene masks
These masks are typically
designed for sports use where wind and thermal protection is required. They are
made from Neoprene fabric, because the material is thick, it can prevent the
spread of droplets from the mouth and nose depending on mask design.
Bandanas and Neck gaiter
These are made from cotton or
synthetic materials, the materials are often thin for improved breathability,
which means they have a decreased ability to contain droplets. Layering the
fabric can help improve containment.
Choosing a face mask
loops vs. ties
A mask that ties behind your head will fit your face better
than one that loops around your ears because you can adjust it. But ties can get tangled up in
the wash, and some people prefer the fit of ear loops. They’re also better for
places like hair salons and barber
Filter vs. no filter
A series of layers of fabric makes more places for virus
particles to stick instead of going out into the air. A filter helps in this
process. But too many layers might make it hard to breathe. Use a mask that’s most comfortable so
you’re more likely to keep wearing it. Be sure to check that the filter
material doesn’t have something dangerous like fiberglass in it.
What to look for when buying a mask
If you’re buying a cloth mask, choose a mask with more than one layer of fabric. Make sure
it’s not too hard to breathe through the material.
Fit is just as important as air flow. Look for a mask
that fits your face well and is comfortable enough that you’ll be willing to
use it. There shouldn’t be any gaps around your nose, mouth, and chin.
Household items one can use to
make a mask:
towel (two layers)
cotton T-shirt (two layers)
Despite its high rating, the researchers didn’t recommend
using a tea towel because it was too hard to breathe through.
Household items one can use as a
products that you can breathe through, such
as coffee filters, paper towels, and toilet paper.
filters with multiple layers block small
particles almost as well as N95 respirators, studies show. But they might
have tiny fibres that can get into your lungs. If you cut up a filter to
use in a mask, be sure to sandwich the filter material between layers of
cotton or other woven fabric. Don’t use any filter that contains
shopping bag, you can cut the kind that has a soft
fabric-like feel, and insert the material between the layers of your mask.
It’s washable but should be air-dried to last longer.
covering is better than nothing.