Everything You Need to Know About Face Masks

It’s been about seven months since Covid-19 sent us all home mid-semester. Since then, a lot of misinformation has surfaced regarding who should wear a face mask, what kinds of masks are helpful and why we should wear them at all. 

Face masks play an integral role in your safety and the safety of others around you, so it’s important to know your facts.

  1. 1. Who should wear face masks?

    Face masks should be worn by everyone! 

    It’s smart to keep your mouth and nose covered at all times when you're around people who don’t live in your household, or when you’re in a public space, according to the CDC. This is especially important if social distancing isn’t possible- though you should always try to maintain a six foot distance from others. 

    Children who are younger than two years old, people who have trouble breathing or anyone who will be unable to take off the mask without help should not wear a mask. Average people who are not incapacitated in any way should wear a mask.

  2. 2. What types of masks are the most effective?

    face mask prevention

    Face masks, such as N95 respirators, that are specifically designated for healthcare workers are more protective than normal face masks. These are more protective against viruses and therefore should be worn by people who have more guaranteed exposure.

    People who don’t work in the healthcare or frontline field should not wear N95 respirators because they should be reserved for those workers.

    Ordinary people who are not healthcare professionals should still wear face masks! The most effective face masks are those that have, “two or more layers of washable, breathable fabric, completely cover your nose and mouth, [and] fit snugly against the sides of your face and don’t have gaps.” These can be disposable or reusable.

    Masks that have exhalation valves or vents are actually not as safe as those can allow virus particles to escape. Neck gaiters and face shields have not been studied entirely, but are under evaluation. However, in a recent study published by Duke University, neck gaiters were reported to be actually more dangerous than the absence of a mask entirely, “because the material seemed to break down larger droplets into smaller particles that are more easily carried by air.”

  3. 3. How often should masks be washed?

    The CDC recommends masks be washed regularly with your normal laundry load. Bacteria and viruses can live on cloth for up to twelve hours, so it’s important to make sure your mask is always clean before it’s worn. This means washing it after each use. 

  4. 4. Where are face masks sold?

    forget-me-nots coming out of a mask

    Face masks have become a bit of a new fashion trend. They can be found at most general stores such as Target and Walmart. Clothing stores such as American Eagle, Nordstrom and Anthropologie are also selling face masks that are both functional and cute. Face masks come with different patterns, in different colors and in different themes. Online stores offer to customize face masks as well. For example, PetParty.com will print photos of your pets on face masks and Redbubble.com will print any art uploaded to the site. 

    Even though some stores are selling very cute, more expensive reusable masks, there are still some people who don’t have access to masks. Many hospitals are accepting mask donations to ensure all faculty and patients are safe. 

  5. 5. How are face masks made?

    Face masks are actually fairly easy to make with the right materials. I used a sewing machine to make dozens of reusable cloth masks over the summer. There are countless Youtube tutorials on how to sew face masks, such as LaurDIY’s “How To Make a Mask At Home: 3 Easy DIY Masks”. There are also many sewing patterns available for free online that are helpful and require very little fabric and are therefore not too expensive.

Face masks have become a necessity for virtually all public spaces, so it’s important to be sure the mask you’re wearing is safe, clean, and protective. For more information regarding Covid-19, visit the CDC’s page on Coronavirus Diseases

Sources: (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20)