Appropriate use of non-medical mask or face covering
Wearing a homemade facial covering/non-medical mask in the community has not been proven to protect the person wearing it and is not a substitute for physical distancing and hand washing.
However, it can be an additional measure taken to protect others around you, even if you have no symptoms. It can be useful for short periods of time, when sharing closed air or when physical distancing is not possible in public settings, such as when grocery shopping or using public transport.
When worn properly, a person wearing a non-medical mask or face covering can reduce the spread of his or her own infectious respiratory droplets.
Non-medical face masks or face coverings should:
- allow for easy breathing
- fit securely to the head with ties or ear loops
- maintain their shape after washing and drying
- be changed as soon as possible if damp or dirty
- be comfortable and not require frequent adjustment
- be made of at least 2 layers of tightly woven material fabric (such as cotton or linen)
- be large enough to completely and comfortably cover the nose and mouth without gaping
Some masks also include a pocket to accommodate a paper towel or disposable coffee filter, for increased benefit.
Non-medical masks or face coverings should not:
- be shared with others
- impair vision or interfere with tasks
- be placed on children under the age of 2 years
- be made of plastic or other non-breathable materials
- be secured with tape or other inappropriate materials
- be made exclusively of materials that easily fall apart, such as tissues
- be placed on anyone unable to remove them without assistance or anyone who has trouble breathing
Homemade masks are not medical devices and are not regulated like medical masks and respirators. Depending on how they are made, Their use could pose a number of limitations:
- the fabrics are not the same as used in surgical masks or respirators
- the edges are not designed to form a seal around the nose and mouth
- they may not provide complete protection against virus-sized particles
- they can be difficult to breathe through and can prevent you from getting the required amount of oxygen needed by your body
These types of masks may not be effective in blocking virus particles that may be transmitted by coughing, sneezing or certain medical procedures. They do not provide complete protection from virus particles because of a potential loose fit and the materials used.
Medical masks, including surgical, medical procedure face masks and respirators (like N95 masks), must be kept for health care workers and others providing direct care to COVID-19 patients.
- DIY MASKS understands that the use of medical face masks by healthcare workers must be given priority over the use in the community, hence why we offer an alternative mask that the commnuity can make for themselves or others.
- DIY MASKS understands the use of face masks in public may serve as a means of source control to reduce the spread of the infection in the community by minimising the excretion of respiratory droplets from infected individuals who have not yet developed symptoms or who remain asymptomatic. It is not known how much the use of homemade masks in the community can contribute to a decrease in transmission in addition to the other countermeasures.
- The use of homemade masks in the community should be considered, especially when visiting busy, closed spaces, such as grocery stores, shopping centres, or when using public transport, etc.
- The use of non-medical face masks made of various textiles should be considered, especially if – due to supply problems – medical face masks must be prioritised for use as personal protective equipment by healthcare workers. This is based on limited indirect evidence supporting the use of non-medical face masks as a means of source control.
- The use of homemade masks in the community is to be considered only as a complementary measure and not as a replacement for established preventive measures, for example physical distancing, respiratory etiquette, meticulous hand hygiene and avoiding touching the face, nose, eyes and mouth and all other recommendations by the HSE and ECDC.
- Appropriate use of homemade masks is key for the effectiveness of the measure and we strive to do so through our educational approach and campaigns.
- DIY MASKS recommendations on the use of face masks in the community carefully take into account evidence gaps, the supply situation, and potential negative side effects.