The mask shortage for medical workers is real and getting worse by the hour — we want to help and so do the millions of Kids Activities Blog readers! It’s so bad, in fact, that the CDC has created guidelines for extending the use of face masks, and what to do when masks simply aren’t available.  What you may not expect is that Kids Activities Blog has two physicians on staff!  
doctor wearing n95 respirator
Crafters everywhere are making homemade face masks to help with the shortage of surgical masks and N95 respirators.
Health care providers have been reaching out online and to their communities for homemade medical masks that can be washed and reused. Many individuals stuck at home have jumped in to use their sewing skills to help. But we wondered how those of us who can’t sew could join the effort.

CDC Guidelines for Homemade Face Masks

So what does the CDC have to say about these homemade masks? The guidelines spell it out simply: Their capability to protect is unknown, so use with caution and only as a last resort. But nurses and other medical workers have shared that they are wearing these homemade masks on the outside of their surgical masks or N95 respirators to extend the usefulness of this necessary medical equipment.  
Medical professionals are using homemade face masks as a layer to protect surgical masks and N95 respirators.

Something Is Better Than Nothing

As a former Army flight surgeon and combat veteran, I’ve served in austere environments where we did not get resupply for months. I understand what “last resort” or something-is-better-than-nothing really looks like… and something can be much MUCH better than nothing, no matter how ridiculous it may look. This morning I was watching the news and making coffee when I realized I was looking at the materials for potentially hundreds of disposable masks in my kitchen cupboard — coffee filters!
disposable coffee filters
Disposable coffee filters could be used to make masks as a last-resort layer of protection for necessary medical equipment.
According to the CDC, the N95 respirators can function for a complete 8 hour shift, but the key is to “reduce surface contamination of the respirator,” taking steps such as using a cleanable face shield over the respirator or masking the patients. A simple makeshift mask made from coffee filters could be used as a last-resort additional layer of protection — over a surgical mask or N95 respirator, or for the patient to reduce airborne droplets from coughing and sneezing. This also applies to taking care of an ill family member who doesn’t need hospitalization — wearing even a makeshift mask can help to reduce exposure to the rest of the household.  The idea may sound crazy, but officials in New York gave instructions to medical workers last week on how to fashion a coffee filter mask due to the shortage of medical masks.  And a product design company in Arlington is already working on a face mask prototype using coffee filters.

How to Make a Disposable Coffee Filter Mask:

Make a disposable mask with a coffee filter
This hack uses coffee filters to create a disposable protective barrier for regulation medical masks when supply is short.
You’ll Need:
  • Coffee filter
  • Yarn 
  • Scissors
  • Stapler
homemade coffee filter mask
CDC guidelines recommend wearing the same face mask for repeated close contact encounters with several different patients, without removing the face mask between patients, when medical masks are in short supply.
Start by cutting two pieces of yarn that are each at least 16 inches in length. It’s easier for medical staff to trim excess yarn than try to use a mask without enough yarn to tie. Make a horizontal fold across the top quarter of the coffee filter.
how to use coffee filters for a temporary face mask
Disposable masks can be provided to patients to reduce airborne droplets from coughing and sneezing.
Insert the yarn into the fold and use the stapler to secure it in place.  Repeat for the bottom quarter of the coffee filter to make a second set of ties for the mask.
medical mask made from a coffee filter
A simple makeshift mask made from coffee filters could be used as a last-resort additional layer of protection against airborne particles.
The mask can now be tied into place to fit over a medical-grade mask or to use if a medical mask isn’t available.
n95 mask
N95 respirators are in short supply, and professionals are looking for safe ways to reuse the equipment between patients.
If you are in an area where health care providers are in dire need of protective equipment, we recommend that you reach out and ask how you can help. Get creative and make suggestions — every little bit can help!   


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