Dos and Don’ts of Proper Mask-Wearing
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends wearing a mask in public where physical distancing measures may be difficult to maintain, but asserts that masks are not a substitute for physical distancing. If you choose to gather outside your home or in public, you should remain 6 feet apart from others and wear a mask. Exceptions include children under age 2. You should also wear a mask if you are taking care of a person who has COVID-19, or if you are sneezing, coughing or feeling sick.
There are some instances where masks may not be necessary, for example, if you are outside by yourself and away from others, or if you are only with members of your household. However, you should always follow the local mandates in your area.
Not all face masks are created equal. Cloth face coverings are not the same as surgical masks or N95 respirators. The most common types of protection available include:
- Surgical masks. Also known as a medical mask, these filter out large particles in the air.
- N95 respirators. This offers more protection than a surgical mask because it is a type of respirator. They get their name from the fact that they filter out 95% of aerosols. But these masks are intended to fit with a proper seal, which requires a professional fitting or size check. The CDC recommends that non-healthcare workers do not wear N95 masks.
- Cloth masks. Typically hand-sewn, these are created with fabric and may be easier to find. Cloth masks should have multiple layers of fabric and fit securely around your face, completely covering your nose and mouth. For example, a wire in the part that covers the bridge of your nose could help keep the mask securely in place.
If you choose to use a neck gaiter as a face mask, the CDC says to make sure the gaiter has two layers, or to fold it over to create two layers of protection. It is currently not known if neck gaiters or face shields are effective in reducing the spread of COVID-19.
Regardless of the mask you choose, you must wear it properly to achieve protection.
- Keep the mask on securely over both your nose and mouth.
- The bridge of your nose should be covered at all times. This helps keep particles from exiting and entering your mask.
- Don’t share masks with others. Everyone in your household should have their own set of masks that they use.
- If your masks are reusable, remember to clean and store them safely.
- Wash your hands before and after handling your mask: This is as important a protective measure as wearing the mask.
- Never touch the outside of the mask.