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Is Cloth Face Mask Effective Against Viruses?

Given the context of global shortages and the Government’s recommendation to take them, the controversy is now focused on home-style ones. Before you go crazy to sew, read here the main keys on its use and materials.

 

Last Friday the Government announced the recommendation to wear masks, also for asymptomatic people, especially on public transport. And this is where the problem begins because, although they are going to provide them on the subway and nearby, finding masks at the moment is more complicated than looking for Wally.

In a global context of shortages of masks, both surgical and the already famous FFP2 and FFP3, the most adept have dusted off their ‘Singers’ and the controversy over the use of homemade masks, made with fabric or other materials, is trending topic in our country. Given the apparently contradictory messages that we are receiving these days about its use, we summarize the seven keys to what science and health authorities say about it.

WHAT DOES THE WHO SAY?

Last Monday, April 6, the WHO issued a report that said, literally: “The use of masks made of other materials (for example, cotton cloth), also known as non-medical masks, has not been well evaluated in the environment Community. there is no current evidence to recommend for or against its use in this environment. ” In short: neither yes nor no, neither black nor white. It is understandable that, in the absence of evidence, WHO does not want to get wet . But I also do not know if it is a good idea to leave the citizen to his free will, without clear guidance on an aspect that may become key in the prevention of COVID-19.

WHAT DOES THE ECDC (EUROPEAN CENTER FOR DISEASE PREVENTION AND CONTROL) SAY?

Fortunately in Europe they have gotten wet. They issued another report on April 8 in which they concluded that the use of cloth masks can be assessed if there are supply problems. They insist that health professionals must have priority of access to masks. However, they warn that the use of homemade masks should be considered only as a complementary measure and not as a replacement for the established preventive measures. Social distancing, sneezing or coughing at the front of the elbow, meticulous hand hygiene, and avoiding touching the face, nose, eyes, and mouth are still the most important measures. It is essential to avoid the false sense of security that these masks can offer or the remedy will be worse than the disease.

WHAT DOES SCIENCE SAY ABOUT THE USE OF CLOTH MASKS?

The evidence supporting the use of non-medical masks as a preventive measure is limited, but there are studies that suggest that their use as a last resort may be better than using nothing . More studies are needed on the use of homemade masks in the community to be able to draw conclusive conclusions. But science continues to advance. And in the meantime, we must make the best risk-benefit decisions.

WHAT ARE THE BEST MATERIALS?

The filter material of medical masks is made up of a mesh of plastic fibers that can retain the contaminant. From homemade materials it is difficult for us to achieve the filtering capacity of FFP2 masks (92%) or FFP3 masks (98%), but we can achieve high percentages with other materials. According to a study, vacuum cleaner filters can filter 86% , a blend shirt can filter up to 70% while the fabric of a scarf would be around 50%. Masks made from non-woven fabric (the material in some reusable bags) or cloths may work well.

WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO MAKE A HOMEMADE MASK?
INA is busy, needle and thread in hand, following tutorials on YouTube with patterns of all kinds and conditions. You don’t really need to be an expert seamstress: everyone can make a mask at home using simple materials. The US CDC has released a series of tutorials for making face masks with and without a sewing machine. There is a tutorial in which they use coffee filters and another in which they simply use a T-shirt. In the case of not having coffee filters, vacuum cleaners or any other material that has been recommended to us, remember that the possible benefit of using this material compared to other types of fabric does not compensate for leaving the house to look for it or ordering it online. Staying at home is still essential.

HOW DO I WASH THE HOMEMADE FACE MASK?

Cloth masks can be machine washed at a temperature between 60 and 90C. With regard to medical masks, from Stanford University they are analyzing possible disinfection methods in order to extend the life of medical masks (heat, radiation, ultraviolet, alcohol …). There are also protocols published from the Ministry of Labor. The protocols agree that applying heat at a temperature of 70-75C for 30 minutes kills the bug and maintains the filtering capacity of the mask. The drawback is that it could deform it by altering its adjustability. From Standford they warn: they still cannot endorse any of the disinfection methods that are being used and they do issue a warning: any disinfection procedureIt must be done in the workplace. Never in home appliances . Say no to masks like steamed sea bass in the home oven.

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