To mask or not to mask? This is a question that has become increasingly important now that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has changed its original recommendation and now says we all should cover our faces in public where it is difficult to observe social distancing rules.
The reason for the change, according to NPR, is that there is mounting evidence that people who show no symptoms can spread the virus.
While the CDC and others are still discouraging the use of medical-grade masks for the public because they are in short supply, many organizations are offering tips on how to make your own face covering using cotton T-shirt material or tea towels. Experts note that these materials may help block respiratory droplets coming from sick people, although they don't know exactly how much protection they provide.
What is clear, however, is that covering your eyes, nose, and mouth can reduce the spread of disease. Dr. Daniel Griffin, an expert on infectious diseases at Columbia University, tells NPR that masks have the potential to benefit people, but you need to wear and handle them correctly.
"That's why in studies, masks fail — people don't use them correctly," he says. "They touch the front of it. They adjust it. They push it down somehow to get their nose stuck out."
Griffin recommends carefully removing the mask by the ear bands and either washing or discarding it without touching the front of it. It needs to be washed every time it's used. If you are making your own mask at home, use a tight-weave cotton, says Griffin.
"Don't use a synthetic or polyester because they have looked at the virus' ability to survive on surfaces, and spandex is the worst," he advises.
Johns Hopkins Medicine has step-by-step instructions on how to make a DIY face mask and Kaiser Permanente has a handy video to help you sew one at home. Experts also recommend using eye protection.
According to NPR, glasses and sunglasses aren't the best choices, but they may protect you from a stranger's sneeze. You can also wear tight-fitting goggles, says the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO)
If you wear contact lenses, switch to glasses, the AAO tells CNN, to reduce how often you touch your face. People who wear contacts tend to touch their face more frequently than those who don't.
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