Since the beginning of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an emphasis on following certain instructions in order to avoid contracting the virus and further spread of the infection.
For instance, the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention recommends all people should wear a fabric mask before heading outdoors for any purpose. Initially, only people in the front line of healthcare or those with jobs that include engaging with customers were asked to wear masks.
However, scientific investigation on the matter suggested that wearing masks has effectively helped in previous pandemics in the world. Therefore, in the updated guidelines of the CDC, all people were asked to wear protective masks.
In addition, the instructions were not only limited to adults. Children aged two or over are also required to wear fabric masks in order to prevent COVID-19.
Recently, one of the biggest concerns regarding the spread of the coronavirus infection amongst healthcare workers is the shortage of protective equipment such as masks which significantly raises the risk of contracting the virus.
Health care workers and doctors require additional protection since they are constantly exposed to the virus in COVID-19 wards and quarantine centers. Specialized masks such as N95 are, therefore, a requirement.
The commonly available fabric masks do not provide enough protection in a hospital setting. This is the reason why the CDC and other health authorities have recommended people outside of healthcare fields to only wear a fabric mask.
Furthermore, since there is a shortage of all masks in the majority of the markets around the world, health authorities have also approved of homemade masks for protection but a common question is raised on the material that can be used for making the mask.
Now, a preliminary study that addresses the shortage of masks and the effectiveness of homemade masks shows a combination of materials that can provide maximum protection against COVID-19.
The research, whose findings appear in ACS Nano, was conducted by researchers at Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Chicago.
According to the findings of the study, masks made of a combination of natural silk fabric, high thread-count cotton, and chiffon weave can help in filtering the aerosol particles out and provide protection.
Supratik Guha, who is a professor at the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering, a scientist at Argonne, and the leading author of the study states that there is an increase in interest on homemade masks.
However, there is very little scientific data present on which homemade masks and materials can safeguard the wearer and effectively filter out harmful particles.
Guha further added that “According to these results, it’s possible to get very good filtering with commonly available fabrics, but the wearer only gets maximum protection if the fit is very close to your face.”
More precisely, the findings of the study show that one layer of a tightly woven cotton sheet in combination with two layers of polyester-based chiffon effectively protected and filtered out around eighty to ninety percent of the aerosol particles.
Additionally, the chiffon used in the mask can also be replaced with polyester-cotton flannel, natural silk, or even a quilt with cotton-polyester batting as it will give the same results.
Where the mask was indeed effective, the team emphasized on the fitting as well. In the research, they explained how ill-fitted masks can decrease the efficacy of the mask by half.
The ideal fitting of a mask requires it to ‘hug’ the face. It should be tight but not tight enough to make it difficult to breathe or damage the skin.
Wearing a mask is mandatory during the COVID-19 period which is why homemade masks are important especially since there is a lack of masks in the market.