The USA has been facing a difficult situation during the majority of this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. It began early in the year, and since then, face masks have been the focus of many news and media outlets. They seem to be everything we hear or read about online or on the news. In the beginning, people started to buy them in bulk and wholesale because they were fearful of the unknown. Now we have much more information than we did back in February, and cloth masks have been recommended as one of the most effective and best resources to prevent the spread of the virus.
The good thing is these face masks can be easily made at home, and since they’re made out of cloth, they’re reusable and washable. The internet is filled with information and tutorials on how you can make your own. Today, we’ll discuss a pattern for a surgical-type cloth mask you can make at home.
Surgical masks: a brief explanation
Surgical masks, also known as medical masks, are a type of disposable face mask that has the main function of acting as a physical barrier between the wearer’s nose and mouth and the harmful particles in the environment around them. Based on the type of procedures they’re intended for, they can be labeled as surgical, dental, or medical masks. They’re different from the very valuable N95 masks, but they share the characteristics of being disposable face masks and being able to be worn with face shields for more protection.
You can hear or read people calling these face masks also “regular” face masks, but this doesn’t mean that any face mask is a surgical face mask. The latter is tightly regulated to be used in medical settings, including surgeries and other medical procedures where fluid can be released into the air. They can have varying levels of thickness, which translates into varying levels of protection against fluids and also varying levels of breathability.
These face masks are specifically designed to protect the user from splatter, splashes, droplets, aerosols, and other forms of fluid release that come from other people. This prevents these fluids from reaching the wearer’s mouth and nose, and since these fluids can contain harmful pathogens, it prevents the user from inhaling them and becoming infected. It also works the other way around preventing the user from releasing their fluids into the environment, which is particularly important during surgeries or when treating immunocompromised patients.
Besides working as a physical barrier, these face masks also act as filters. But, unlike N95 respirators or KN95 masks, they don’t filter out small particles like dust, smoke, or viruses like the coronavirus or the flu virus. They can only filter out large particles from the air, making them not as effective for virus protection. Another difference with N95 masks is they don’t offer a tight fit around the face, and are more loose-fitting, leaving room for leakage of unfiltered air into the airways. This reduces their antiviral properties as well.
Like any other disposable face mask, they have to be properly discarded after they’ve been used, or if it becomes damaged or wet. They can’t be shared with other people, and properly washing your hands before and after handling the face mask is always recommended.
Sewing patterns for surgical-like masks
Surgical masks can’t simply be sewn at home with a sewing machine from regular clothing fabric. Making them is a process that requires the use of a very particular material called non-woven fabric, which is made out of polypropylene. During the manufacturing of these face masks, multiple layers of this fabric are welded together, ear loops are attached, and then the face masks need to be sterilized for them to be distributed to sellers.
However, if you enjoy the pleated style of surgical masks and find this design more comfortable than other popular cloth mask patterns, you can easily sew a fabric reusable face mask with a surgical-like pattern. There are a lot of resources on the internet, but this pleated pattern and tutorial are very informational and complete. This face mask can be made in a smaller size for its use in kids as well.
Inside the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a series of recommendations regarding face masks. They’ve been urging the general public to use reusable cloth masks when they have to be in public settings and to keep following social distancing and hygiene measures. These three measures combined should be enough for the general public to do their part in keeping the spread of the virus controlled.
Medical-grade face masks, like surgical face masks and the N95 respirators, like the 3M N95 masks in the models 3M 8210 and 3M 8511, for healthcare providers and other workers on the frontlines of the pandemic. These are workers in situations where exposure to the virus and infection are more likely, and since social distancing measures aren’t very possible in these jobs, they need the best protection they can get from a face mask. These supplies have been scarce since early in the year, which is why they need to be reserved for them.
Anyone who uses any type of face-covering is doing their part in helping the fight against COVID-19. A lot of options are available for sale online, and by now, resources are endless to make your reusable face mask. Make sure to keep staying safe.