French hospital shares homemade mask instructions

A French hospital has published instructions on how to make homemade face masks that can be worn outside the home, as many people may have no symptoms but could spread the virus unknowingly.

23 March 2020
Wearing a mask is unlikely to stop you getting ill yourself but may stop you from spreading the virus to others
By Connexion journalist

Update: We have since been informed that the pattern published by the CHU Grenoble-Alpes is in fact a translation of an original published on the website CraftPassion.com. This original post and full mask instructions (in English) are here.

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The university hospital (CHU) of Grenoble-Alpes (Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes) published a PDF with instructions on how to make a homemade face mask - as well as a template of various sizes - here.

Wearing a mask is unlikely to stop you getting ill yourself if you encounter someone else who is infected. However, it may stop you from spreading the virus to others, even if you have no symptoms.

Wearing a mask is not enough to stop the spread itself. 

Wearers are also advised to practice the usual good hygiene methods, such as coughing into your elbow rather than your hand; using hand sanitiser gel; not touching your face; staying within 1-2 metres of others; and washing your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water.

People are advised to wear a mask when leaving the house, even if they have no symptoms, as a large number of carriers of the virus may be asymptomatic, or have only mild signs. They may not realise that they are a carrier, and could spread the virus to others without knowing.

Studies have shown that homemade masks are not as effective as surgical masks, or the gold-standard FFP2 models, but can be useful nonetheless.

What size should my mask be?

It should cover the wearer’s mouth and the bottom of their nose, to avoid spreading contaminated droplets as much as possible. 

A template of different sizes can be printed from the PDF by the Grenoble-Alpes CHU here

The CHU template page shows half of one mask, with different sizes - from a small child aged 3-6, to an adult man. Cut it out twice and sew together in the middle to make a full mask (full instructions below).

(Photo: Infirmiers.com / CHU Grenoble-Alpes)

What can I use to make my mask?

Thick materials such as clean hoover bags or tea towels are better than thin material such as cotton T-shirts or linen, as the latter do not have tight enough weaves.

If possible, the advice is to use three layers of material; a thinner layer and a thicker outside layer, with a vacuum cleaner bag or thick fleece in between.

When should I wear it?

Place it on your face just before you go out, after having washed your hands. Only take it off after you come inside, and wash your hands, and the mask, afterwards. 

How long does the mask last for?

Any kind of mask requires regular changing, as it quickly becomes moist and contaminated through use. 

A homemade mask should only be worn for the duration of your trip, such as a quick visit to the supermarket. It will not remain very effective beyond this.

Can I reuse the same mask? 

You can, but it must be taken off after use and thoroughly cleaned with soap and hot water, and left to dry completely before reuse.

Full instructions:

The full instructions for making a mask are here (in French), and translated below. (Translated by Connexion).

The PDF also has photos to help demonstrate the steps.

(Photo: Infirmiers.com / CHU Grenoble-Alpes)

  1. Cut out the right sizer template (see template on PDF)
  2. Cut out the correct pieces of material for the outer later - you should now have four pieces
  3. Cut out the fleece or inner layer, again for each side
  4. Cut two elastics (around 30cm each for the large size, adapt as necessary)
  5. Assemble the two pieces of exterior fabric “face to face”, to create the mask shape
  6. Do the same for the two other layers, inserting the thicker pieces of fabric inside
  7. Sew along the top and bottom of the mask; but not the short sides (leave these free for the ear elastic)
  8. Turn over in place
  9. Stitch the central vertical seam (so the pieces form one mask)
  10. Stitch the top and bottom a few millimetres from the edge
  11. Fold over the shorter sides and iron, to create a “sleeve” for the elastic
  12. Slide your elastic inside the “sleeves” and knot to size, to hold the mask in place on your ears

250 million masks

Late last week, health minister Olivier Véran confirmed that France had ordered 250 million masks, mainly for healthcare staff.

Mask priority will be given to health workers, staff in elderly care homes, police, and distribution workers.

These will be delivered gradually over the course of the next few weeks, the minister said, not counting extra supplies of masks set to be delivered by large businesses.

The current national stock of masks is at 86 million, including five million FFP2 (most protective), and the rest surgical standard.

France can produce six million masks per week, Mr Véran said, rising to eight million from April.

Currently, FFP2 masks are illegal to sell - even in pharmacies - and must only be used by health professionals or other at-risk groups.

Read more: Covid-19 France: Macron talks of ‘war’ as 112 more die
Read more: Covid-19 France: Theft and illegal sale of masks soar 

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