WHO and other health organizations around the world have informed that wearing a mask can reduce the spread of coronavirus infection. Since then videos showing DIY face masks have been trending on social media. People from all over the world have been making their own face masks out of T-shirts, scarves, or just random pieces of cotton cloth.
But the major question is — can DIY Cotton masks actually protect you from the coronavirus infections?
Wearing a mask with filter is said to protect you from inhaling harmful airborne particles, such as pathogen-carrying droplets. But cotton-made masks are not delicate enough to work as a filter, some say that the holes in the fabric are tiny, which can prevent the virus to get through.
According to a paper published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, 82 percent of droplets ejected from coughing are in the range of 0.74 to 2.12 micrometers that are roughly 1/8 of the diameter of one strand of human hair.
The graph above displays the efficiencies of four different types of masks – an N95 respirator mask, a medical-grade surgical mask, a disposable mask, and a cotton mask. The given graph explains that cotton masks are not very effective, whereas other kinds can significantly protect you from the majority of droplets.
This gives an easy conclusion that droplets can still get through the cloth material and disposable masks work just fine, so you don’t have to get a medical-grade mask.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone wear a cloth face covering in public, especially where there is a high degree of community-based transmission (that is, when the source of infection is unknown).
This is a tough time. Many frontline medical workers are still facing a severe shortage of protective gear; some have been working without proper PPE for days or even months. We do not need to fight with them over medical-grade masks when the disposable kind works just fine.
But, what if you can’t even get a disposable mask? The advice is to stay at home as much as possible and cut off all potential sources of infection. And remember to always wash your hands.