Many governments and organizations around the world are advising the public to wear face coverings in order to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. In Nigeria,  The Federal Government even mandated the use of face masks or coverings in public but the basics in regards to hygiene must be followed to really curb the wild spread of this virus.

Why use a face covering?

Using a homemade/material mask helps to protect you along with others in your community. Surgical and medical masks are considered preferable by the World Health Organisation (WHO), however, due to rising demand and worldwide production levels, individuals are encouraged to improvise. Also, it ensures that surgical and medical masks continue to reach health professionals who need them most.

Come to think of it, the masks used by healthcare professionals are non-recyclable and fairly expensive! It would be very difficult for a number of people to afford it. Although cloth masks may not stop the individual wearing them from becoming infected, there is a growing body of evidence that they could help prevent spread by people with COVID-19 who don’t have symptoms.

What kind of face-covering should be used?

There are no established standards for homemade masks, but there are many available online and lots of tutorials out there if you want to make yours. Here is one we find interesting, watch it.

There are so many options on the internet these days, and often quite entertaining and creative. We have seen options ranging from the government’s no-sew t-shirt option to the trainer sock mask and various styles with elastic bands, coffee filters, and even panty liners.

The Face covering checklist

If you’re embarking on the journey to buy or make a cloth mask, first consider the following 3 points:

Material choice

To be as effective as possible, a cloth mask should be made using a fabric that blocks a good number of droplets from passing through it. The material you choose needs to remain breathable and be comfortable to wear for prolonged periods of time. It also should be easy to wash and retain its shape. Fabrics such as cotton t-shirts, pillowcases, and tea towels, have been found to block some droplets, without significantly affecting one’s breathing.

Dangling masks are not allowed, it needs to sit and fit well

Watch around the nose, mouth, and ears, the mask should fit well in those areas so that droplets and virus particles don’t get out or get in from around those sides.

Mask and Hygiene

Yes, a mask is supposed to form a barrier to virus-filled droplets that are coughed, sneezed, or simply breathed out when talking but if not used properly, there are chances of getting infected.

Here are some tips by WHO on how to use a face mask safely:

  • Wash your hands well with soap and water
  • Take a clean mask and put it on securely so that it doesn’t move around, find the perfect fit
  • Make sure it covers your nose, mouth, and tucks under your chin
  • Check around the sides of your mask that there is as little gapping as possible
  • If you need to readjust your mask at any point, wash your hands straight after or use an alcohol-based hand gel
  • If the mask gets damp or if you are done using it, take it off without touching the front part
  • Put reusable masks straight into your washing machine or a bowl of water with detergent in it. If you’re out and about, put it in a plastic bag and then wash the mask soon as you’re home. Throw disposable face masks straight into the bin
  • Always wash your hands well after removing your mask

FAQs around the use of face coverings

Here are some commonly asked questions and answers about face coverings:

How can I stop my glasses from misting?

To avoid your glasses fogging up every time you breathe out, make sure the upper part of your mask comes up as high as possible, under your eyes, and rest your glasses on top.

How do I wash my face covering?

Face coverings can be safely washed with your normal laundry and powder, in a washing machine or by hand.

Are there people who shouldn’t wear a face covering?

Most people can safely wear a face covering; however, it is important to note that they shouldn’t be put on children under the age of 3. Placing something over the nose and mouth of a young child increases the risk of suffocation as they may not be able to take it off themselves if needed or if they’re struggling to breathe.

Also, for people who have difficulty breathing, a face-covering could be unsuitable and might cause more harm than good.