The short answer to this question is Yes! The COVID-19 virus spreads through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Research (Xie et al, 2007) shows that horizontally expelled large droplets can penetrate a long distance and in some cases can suspend in air, increasing the probability of subsequent inhalation. Whilst respiratory droplets of one person can be inhaled by another within only one meter, this distance increases to two meters if the person coughs and to more than six meters if the person sneezes (Xie et al, 2007)! And another recently published scientific study shows that aerosolized coronavirus can remain in the air for up to three hours (van Doremalen et al, 2020).

Today, in the midst of the COVID-19 worldwide pandemic, I am reading countless ideas to create home-made masks since the shortage of medical equipment and surgical masks in particular is a concern for all, individuals and healthcare providers. Is a toddler’s diaper a suitable substitute as the Italian Paediatric Surgeon, Piero Abbruzzese, seems to suggest? To what extent are the quilted masks that are currently being crafted in our homes an efficient protection? What should I do?

Whatever you put on your mouth and nose that acts as a barrier to respiratory droplets entering one of your orifices will help reduce the risk of you contracting the virus. Now of course, whilst a surgical mask can, depending on its type, be used for several hours, it is recommended that you do not use your home made mask for more than one outing and a maximum of one hour. So if you need to go to the grocery shop and only have a quilted mask, then whilst it is not ideal, it is better than nothing. Similarly, if you don’t own surgical gloves, wearing garden gloves, or simple winter gloves will help.

What is important is that you understand how the virus spreads. What is crucial is that you do not touch your mouth, nose or eyes with whatever gloves you use and that when you remove your mask, you do so without making contact with the part of it that was exposed to the outside and the potential droplets. Of course the best way to stay safe is to wash your hands as often as possible, before and after wearing your mask and gloves and to minimise your outings as much as is realistically possible. Also please bear in mind that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or an object that has the virus on it and hence, once you are safely back home, quarantine your used gloves and mask, if you can’t put them straight in the bin or in the washing machine, and use a different pair for up to seven days later.

Now no matter what, please stay at home, stay safe and stay connected for more articles.

van Doremalen, N., Bushmaker, T., Morris, D.H., et al (2020) Aerosol and Surface Stability of SARS-CoV-2 as Compared with SARS-CoV-1 The New England Journal of Medicine 2020; 382:1564-1567 https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMc2004973 accessed 04.17.2020

Xie, X., Li, Y., Chwang, A.T.Y., Ho, P.L, Seto, W.H., (2007) How far droplets can move in indoor environments –revisiting the Wells evaporation–falling curve Indoor Air 2007; 17: 211–225 https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/j.1600-0668.2007.00469.x accessed 04.17.2020

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