Since the COVID-19 pandemic has gained a solid footing here in the U.S., there has been a lot of talk about whether the general public should be wearing masks. You may have seen people with masks on at the grocery store or pharmacy, and you’ve no doubt seen tutorials for homemade masks on your favorite social media outlet. But it can be kind of confusing. Should we all be wearing masks? If so what kind? Are homemade masks effective? Let’s talk about face masks during the time of COVID-19.

The Types of Masks You Need to Know

N95 Respirator Masks

These masks are an important part of the personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers that we’ve heard so much about lately. They are made of a special material that filters out 95 percent of the small particles in the air – this includes coronaviruses like SARS-CoV2, the virus causing COVID-19. They also form a seal around the nose, and mouth so those particles don’t sneak around the side.

Surgical (Loop) Masks

When you watch your favorite medical tv shows, these are the masks you will most commonly see. These are designed to protect against larger droplets. It protects the wearer from splashes coming in and it prevents them from potentially spreading their own respiratory secretions to others.

Homemade Masks

As you can imagine, homemade masks can be made from any material on hand, and as a result, their effectiveness is quite variable.

Should We All Wear Masks?

Because there has been a shortage of PPE, including N95 and surgical masks, in many areas of the US, we need to preserve those for the healthcare workers. They are caring for patients with COVID-19 on a daily basis, often unknowingly as so many people have mild or no symptoms.

Even so, recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has recognized the value of community use of face masks in slowing the spread of COVID-19. This is because so many of those infected have no symptoms at all and could unknowingly spread the virus. 

So, the CDC now recommends the use of cloth face masks when in areas where social distancing of at least 6 feet is difficult to maintain (basically when you are out in public for grocery runs and the like). By using cloth masks so as not to consume the supply needed by healthcare workers, we help limit community spread but leave the PPE for those encountering the virus regularly. 

It’s very important to remember that masks are to be used in addition to, not instead of, other measures for preventing the spread of COVID-19. Masks simply do not protect completely. So stay home when at all possible, wash your hands frequently, maintain a distance of six feet from other people when you can’t stay home, and use a mask when you are away from home.

Finally, if you are caring for someone who may have COVID-19, you should definitely wear a mask while caring for them, even if it’s in your own home.

How do I Make a Mask?

As you consider what materials to use for your mask, consider that you want to be able to breathe comfortably through multiple layers of fabric and you need to be able to wash and dry your mask—preferably with your regular laundry so you will be sure to wash it regularly.

Remember to avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth when removing your mask, and to wash it regularly.

If you have any questions about face masks, how to help reduce the transmission of COVID-19, or your health in general, your team at Hunt Regional Medical Partners is here for you. Please give us a call to discuss any concerns you have.