**DISCLAIMER** Everything written in this post is based on my experience and the best information I can source. It is general information only and should not be taken as medical fact.
If you had seen this blog title a year ago you would have assumed that I had an invitation to a masquerade ball. Fast forward to March 2020 and many of us are thinking of some sort of protective mask. A couple of months ago in Australia, it was bushfire smoke and now it is coronavirus.
Wearing a mask is no substitute for practising ‘social distancing’ which means keeping a minimum distance of 1.5 metres between yourself and any other person when you are out in public or preferably, staying at home as much as possible.
A homemade, cotton fabric mask does not offer the same level of protection as masks manufactured as ‘fit for purpose’.
This article lists different types of masks and their intended purpose, cost and effectiveness as well as some general information on mask-wearing and control measures.
Due to the extent of the coronavirus outbreak, masks seem to be in short supply and people for whom they are not necessary or recommended should not be buying them.
If I don’t need to be wearing a mask why did I make some?
- I am currently healthy but that may change
- I will not feel like making masks if I am ill
- A cotton mask worn correctly will reduce my risk if I have to leave my home for essential tasks
- Wearing a mask will remind me not to touch my face when I am in public
- A mask is a visual reminder to others to keep their distance
How to wear/use a mask:
- Wear it once
- Wear it over your mouth and nose – not around your neck or on top of your head
- For maximum effectiveness masks should be changed every 20 minutes or after sneezing, coughing or talking
- Handle only by the elastic/ties when removing after use
- Disposable masks should be discarded as soon as removed
- Reusable masks should be contained immediately in a lidded bucket, thoroughly washed and dried in sunlight
So, you want to make masks for you and your family?
There are many, many links, instructions and tutorials. Like all instructions, they vary enormously in the detail and quality. Furthermore, some do not look as though the finished product would be of any use at all while others are so complex that they would be beyond they capability of many people.
As a retired operating room nurse, I am very familiar with the general size and construction of a mask as I wore one every day of my working life for over 30 years. Therefore, I had several features in mind which I felt would make it as effective as possible under the circumstances:
- Ties instead of elastic loops
- Pleats to assist in contouring it to my face
- Wire to conform over the bridge of the nose
- Several layers of fabric
- Tightly woven cotton fabric for the outer layer
I found this link which met my criteria.
I made 2 alterations to what is in the instructions:
- The ties on my mask are only 36 inches in length rather than the 54 inches recommended. That was the length of bias binding I had available and it works well for me. You need to be guided by the size of the head of the intended wearer but you definitely do not want to be hampered by excessively long ties.
- I added an additional layer to make a total of 3 – outer layer is a strong, tightly-woven cotton, middle layer is very fine, lightweight cotton and the inner layer (next to my face) is used cotton sheeting which is very soft and non-irritant.
The fabric you choose is important. A tightly woven outer layer will provide the best physical barrier while the inner layer should be soft and comfortable against your skin. If you add an extra layer keep it fairly lightweight otherwise it will be too bulky and sewing the pleats will be difficult.
I bought a roll of plant tie wire from Bunnings for the wire to conform over the bridge of the nose but any plastic-coated twist tie would be suitable. Be sure to turn the ends over and flatten them.
Remember, a mask may be an adjunct in preventing the spread of COVID19 when used properly and in conjunction with effective handwashing and keeping your distance as far as possible.
The better a mask fits, the more effective it will be. It must completely cover your mouth and nose at all times when you are wearing it. A neat fit, without being tight, over the bridge of your nose, under your chin and in front of your ears is desired.
Please take care and stay safe.