Sew Many Masks, Sew Creative but A Few Precautions
Sew Many Masks, Sew Creative But a Few Precautions
It seems like everyone I know is making masks and no two people are making them the same. There are so many YouTube videos, online instructions and every recommendation you can think of on what to add as a filter, wire or no wire, etc.
A home sewn mask is not meant to work like an N95 PPE mask used in hospitals. In fact, if touched often, sneezed or coughed on, it can harbor the virus and must be laundered immediately. Health care professionals are using the home sewn masks over their PPE to help extend the life of their mask but that is it. Certainly if you are using your masks personally they will help but not if droplets from someone sneezing or coughing come in contact with it either airborne or from touching. Cloth is very porous and will not filter out the virus. But everything helps and the hospitals, nursing homes, homeless shelters, medical centers etc gratefully accept these masks to aid in this unprecedented pandemic. Unfortunately, if you don’t use it correctly, a sewn face mask can often be more dangerous than doing nothing. That’s why it’s important to be very careful putting your mask on and taking it off. It must withstand laundering in hot water. It must fit well and completely cover your nose and mouth without gaping on the sides.
To wire or not to wire: Deaconess Medical Centers in the New England area has a YouTube out showing one way to make the masks. They asked that wire not be used as it did not launder well. The first thing they do with donated home sewn masks is launder them in very hot water and disinfectant. Yet a video and instruction from Unity Health uses a pipe cleaner as does one written by a doctor. Another thing I read said the various wire used such as twist ties, florists wire etc had sharp ends and also didn't really work very well. Also no pipe cleaners which may harbor even more particulates due to the fuzzy stuff. So lots of conflicting info put there. Just use your best judgement based on the requirements of your local hospital or ultimate recipient.
PPE’s (personal protective equipment) used during an outbreak are typically gloves, masks and face shields. They can also include full hazard suits and other protective covering. They are meant to protect the wearer against the particulates expelled into the air by sick people.
COVID-19 is a virus of the same variety as the common cold, but it’s new, never experienced before by us humans. Therefore, we have no antibodies to combat it. One news story I heard said it is an animal virus and is found in bats as well as other wild animals, especially in China where it seems to have started. You catch it from sustained exposure to the virus.
We catch it by touch, particularly by touching our faces after touching a surface that has been exposed. We touch our faces an average of 50 to 60 times per day. Wow, that's a lot. Thus the reason to wash our hands as often as possible.
Wash Your Hands Often: Proper handwashing is by far the best thing we can do. Wash with soap for at least 20 seconds after touching surfaces that may have been exposed or after touching your face or use a hand sanitizer. It is also really important to wipe down common surfaces in your home like counters, sinks, things that are handled often. Use a disinfecting cleaner or a bleach solution. I also read that this virus unlike many will live up to 24 hours on non-porous surfaces. Even longer on porous surfaces. So wash, wash, wash!
Gloves: If you are going to the grocery store, wear disposable gloves. Gloves remind you not to touch your face. When you get home, properly remove the gloves and then dispose of them. And please, don't be rude and drop your used gloves in the parking lot along with your cart for someone else to have to pick up. Peel them from your hands so that the outside ends up inside the glove, shielding the exposed surfaces. Dispose of when you get home. There are lots of videos out there showing exactly how this is done.
Masks: If you’re sick, a face mask may help you prevent infecting others. If you are well, it’s a precaution that will keep out some particulates in the air and may help you stop touching your face, especially your nose which is a key anchoring spot for the virus.
In some countries, especially in Asia, public heath officials claim that masks help prevent further spread. In some European countries, you cannot go out in public without one and it is mandatory for entering public spaces such as food stores or government facilities. They encourage people to wear them all the time. That jury is still out here and there does not seem to be consistent guidance on whether it will make a difference. However, it can't hurt as long as it is worn correctly and laundered correctly.
What exactly is the N95 Mask in the News: The medical face masks used by health professionals during outbreaks are limited in many places even here in the US. The government has some emergency stockpiles but these are dwindling and we have a long way to go in this pandemic. So conservation measures are in effect. We hear so many reports of shortages in hospitals and health clinics. These mask are not meant to be reused and yet that is the predicament facing many health care workers. Some facilities are experimenting with sterilizing used masks under UV lights but it is not yet known how effective this is nor are all facilities equipped to do this.
Health care professionals wear these masks to help protect them against the particulates given off by sick patients. N95 masks are used while performing things like suctioning and intubating COVID patients. They keep out about 95% of particulates.
Surgical masks are not the same as the N95. They may stop large droplets but not the tiny particulates of the Covid-19 virus. However, these do help when worn by sick people as they prevent the droplets from sneezes or coughs from being spread into the air. In other words, they may help protect others. However, for our health care workers, they are better than nothing but not as good as the N95.
Home Sewn Masks From Our Generous Community: The world is one big community and we are all drawing supplies through the same limited sources. Throughout the US and many places in the world, people have taken to their sewing machines and raided their stashes of fabrics to create masks to help in this crisis. 1/4" elastic is in short supply but creative souls are using round elastic cord, hair bands, and variety of other elastic stretch materials. Good old fashioned fabric ties are always a sure bet and many health care workers prefer them as it is more comfortable when worn on top of their N95 mask.
Please keep in mind that even with a filter layer such as non-woven interfacing, tissue, cut up vacuum cleaner bags, dryer sheets, embroidery stabilizer and the list goes on, the home sewn mask is not a replacement for the N95 and will not prevent the virus from getting through. However, it is a great second measure for stressed health care professionals and certainly worthwhile for personal use (keeping in mind proper wearing and frequent laundering). Wash your hands first, pick up the freshly laundered mask by the ties or elastic only, and never touch the mask once on. If you are living with a sick family member or you yourself are sick, the mask will catch some of the droplets.
There are a million of these out on YouTube and a quick Google search will bring you to many more. Be sure to check with your local health care facility before dropping off masks. Check websites to determine what they will accept, when and drop off points. Please do not try to deliver masks to a medical facility. The staff will not know what to do with your donation in many cases and may not wish to handle them until they are sterilized. So please do not risk exposure for yourself or the facility staff.