Navigating which ones you should buy and understanding who they protect, figuring out if you can reuse them and how to get your little ones to wear them are daunting tasks.
But is your bandana really helping you? Should only people who know they’re infected wear masks? And what if your kids throw a tantrum when you ask them to put one on?
We answer every question readers have been asking about face masks.
Should I wear a mask in public?
Who is protected by wearing a mask?
“The idea about the face mask is to prevent the virus from coming out of somebody’s mouth and nose, mostly out of their mouth,” Vinetz said. “They prevent somebody, when they talk or sometimes when they sneeze or cough, from expelling virus and leading to infection in other people.”
What kind of mask should I buy?
You could substitute the chiffon with natural silk or flannel, or use a cotton quilt with cotton-polyester insulation, to achieve similar results, the study said.
There are also disposable cloth masks you can buy in a store or online. They’re not made for surgery or hospitals, but they are effective for your needs and widely used.
What’s the difference between a surgical mask and an N95 mask?
“When we talk about face coverings, there are the surgical masks I wear in the hospital to protect patients from my own germs and avoid any splashes,” said Gupta, who works as a neurosurgeon.
“It’s the only one of these masks that prevents most very small particles from getting in, when used properly,” he continued. “We need to keep those masks in their hands.”
Are cloth masks as effective as medical masks?
Medical-grade masks are more effective, but that “doesn’t mean we should dismiss the benefit of cloth masks,” Gupta said.
Can you reuse them?
Homemade masks can be reused because they’re washable, Vinetz said.
If you already have a disposable surgical or medical-grade mask, those can be reused, too. To disinfect it, leave it in a clean, safe place in your house for a couple days, Vinetz suggested. After that, it should no longer be infectious.
Can you microwave them to kill germs?
“We have no evidence about that,” he said. “If there’s a metal piece in an N95 or surgical mask and even staples, you can’t microwave them. It’ll blow up. If you have a homemade or cloth mask or what’s called a face covering, you just wash it. Microwaving it is not going to work.”
How can I stop my glasses from fogging up?
“To avoid fogging up your glasses — I have the problem myself — short of getting Lasik surgery, you have to fold the mask around your nose so that the air coming out of your mouth or nose doesn’t rise to your glasses,” Vinetz said. (He’s not recommending anyone get elective surgery right now.)
How do I get my kids to wear one?
If your child refuses to wear a mask, takes it off and throws it down, chews on it or otherwise, his actions could defeat the point of wearing a mask and raise the risk of infection, said Christopher Willard, a psychiatry lecturer at Harvard Medical School and author of “The Breathing Book,” a breathing practice book for kids.
“There’s also the weird psychological aspect of not being able to see their own face or other people’s faces and facial expressions,” he added, “which really interferes with communication and signals that they [feel are safe].”
To ease their mask fears, buy or make coverings with appealing fabrics, or draw something cool with markers to make them look more fun. Try drawings of your child’s favorite superheroes or ninjas wearing masks as they go about helping other people. Show your child your own mask and how, by wearing one, he’ll be just like Mom or Dad. See if you can find pictures of your kid’s favorite celebrities wearing masks.
Doing so could make your kids feel like the masks are “theirs” and give them a sense of ownership, making them more excited and more likely to wear them, Willard said.
“I think also knowing that they are protecting others can help, and making it fun by talking about it as dressing up like superheroes or something.”
And altruism isn’t only for kids, but for everyone wearing a mask for the public good.
“It’s part of our social contract to look after one another,” Vinetz said. “It’s social solidarity for everybody in a public place, when told to by public health and political authorities, [to] wear a face covering according to what’s recommended.”
CNN’s Holly Yan and Scottie Andrew contributed to this report.