Face Coverings (Masks) and Covid-19
Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Feb 4, 2024.
What do I need to know about face coverings (masks)?
A cloth face covering (mask) helps protect you from the virus that causes COVID-19. The virus can spread by people who have no symptoms. The covering helps reduce the chances of the virus spreading in droplets from talking, sneezing, and coughing. You may use a homemade face covering or a disposable non-medical mask. These are available at drug stores and may be available at other stores.
How can I make a face covering out of a thick cloth?
You can sew a face covering. You can use a bandana, a scarf, a tee-shirt, or a hand towel. Choose a fabric that will keep its shape and size after it is washed and dried. The fabric should be tightly knit. Hold it up to a light. You should not be able to see the light through the fabric. You will also need 2 rubber bands or 2 hair ties or ponytail holders. The following is a way to make a face covering without sewing:
- Wash and dry items to be used.
- Check that you can breathe through the fabric.
- Place the fabric on a flat surface.
- Fold the top of the fabric down, toward the middle.
- Fold the bottom of the fabric up, toward the middle.
- Fold the top down again.
- Fold the bottom up again.
- Place rubber bands or holders over each side of the fabric.
- Fold each side in, toward the middle.
- Place the covering up to your nose and mouth.
- Loop the rubber bands around your ears.
- Adjust the fabric to cover your nose and mouth completely.
What do I need to know about face coverings?
- Experts recommend layers to provide extra protection. One way to do this is to choose a fabric that has several layers. Another way is to wear a cloth covering over a disposable non-medical mask. Fit the disposable mask tightly against your face at the sides, under your chin, and over your nose. Then put the cloth covering over it.
- Do not use face coverings that have breathing valves or vents. Valves or vents on the sides are designed to allow breathed air to go out. This makes breathing easier, but the virus can travel out of the valve or vent and be spread to others.
- Make sure the covering fits firmly against your face. If you wear glasses, look for coverings that have a wire across the nose area. You can push the wire firmly to shape it across your nose. This will also help prevent your glasses from fogging up.
- Do not remove your face covering to talk, sneeze, or cough. Your face covering will help protect you and others around you.
- Wash face coverings often. Wash them in a washing machine in the warmest water the fabric allows. Make sure the fabric is completely dry before using it. Only wear clean coverings when you go out.
- Do not use a plastic face shield instead of a cloth covering. A face shield will not protect others from droplets. If a face shield must be used, choose one that wraps around both sides of the face and goes below the chin. You can use a face shield and a face covering together for extra protection. Do not use disposable shields more than 1 time. Shields that can be used again need to be cleaned and disinfected between uses. Do not put a face shield or a cloth covering on a newborn or infant. These increase the risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
What should I do if a face covering cannot be used some or all of the time?
- Use a clear face covering if others need to read your lips. A clear covering may be helpful if you communicate with someone who is deaf or hard of hearing. A clear covering is made of cloth but has plastic over the mouth area. This will help the person see your lips more easily. If you must use a plastic face shield, make sure it wraps around your face and goes below your chin. Clean and disinfect reusable shields after each use. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for cleaning and disinfecting.
- Talk to a healthcare provider if a covering cannot be worn. For example, a person who has a sensory or tactile disorder may have a bad reaction to wearing a cloth covering. Ask the provider what to do if a covering cannot be used. It will be important to keep at least 6 feet (2 meters) away from others if a covering cannot be worn.
Where can I find more information?
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
1600 Clifton Road
Atlanta , GA 30333
Phone: 1- 800 - 232-4636
Web Address: http://www.cdc.gov
Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:
- You have trouble breathing or shortness of breath at rest.
- You have chest pain or pressure that lasts longer than 5 minutes.
- You become confused or hard to wake.
When should I seek immediate care?
- The skin on your face, fingers, or toes look blue or darker than usual.
When should I call my doctor?
- You have a fever.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
Care AgreementYou have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.
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