How to Make a Face Mask to Fight the Spread of Coronavirus

You can fashion your own protective covering from things you already have in your own.

The coronavirus outbreak has led to a dire shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) in health care facilities around the country. Doctors, nurses, and health care professionals (HCP) of every stripe are running out of the masks and gowns that limit the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. It's also expected that recommendations will be changing around regular citizens wearing masks whenever they go outside during the pandemic. Still, health care professionals are strongly advising that consumers not hoard masks as they are a much more important resource for doctors. These conflicting circumstances mean that a handmade cloth version is your best option for running your essential errands. Fortunately, there are resources that explain how to make a face mask out of items you probably have at home.

To be clear, wearing a mask (especially one that it's the kind of specially fitted N95s used by medical professionals) is not a proven way to prevent getting COVID-19. But, if you are experiencing symptoms of coronavirus, the mask can help limit the spread.

The shortage of masks in hospitals is so severe that the CDC is now advising healthcare professionals on how to make their own 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. 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.

More do-it-yourself approaches for homemade masks are now also popping up online.

If you know your way around a sewing machine and are comfortable with a sewing pattern, the website So Sew You has a tutorial that only requires elastic bands and cloth to cut and sew.

If you aren't able to sew your own, then cutting household material in a pattern of a surgical mask is the next best option. But what type of clothing should you use? Good question. In a 2013 study from Cambridge University broken down by Smart Air, researchers tested household materials to find which ones did the best job capturing bacteria and viruses. Vacuum cleaner bags are the best way to go, though there some other decent options you may have more readily available, such as dish towels and cotton blend shirts.

Smart Air

The best and easiest method for applying the mask to your face? Cut high-gauge rubber bands and thread each end across the back of the mask.

And for more helpful coronavirus information, here are 7 Coronavirus Myths You Need to Stop Believing, According to Doctors.

Additional reporting by Sage Young.

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