This information was reviewed and approved by Lisa A. Maier, MD, MSPH, FCCP (February 2021).
New recommendations and information from various studies show that there are easy ways to increase the protection from COVID-19 by changing how you wear a facemask.
You can improve how a surgical mask fits by making a small knot in each ear loop. This makes the mask fit closer to your face to block more particles and increase protection.
In experiments by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), when both an infected person (called the source) and another person (the recipient) wear knotted and tucked surgical masks, particle exposure decreases by 96 percent.
Follow the steps below:
Wearing a two-layer Olson-style mask, prevents 80 to 90 percent of droplets from going through the mask.
In CDC experiments, wearing a three-layer cloth mask over a surgical mask, can decrease your exposure to infectious particles by 84.3 percent. If both people double mask (cloth mask over a surgical mask), the recipient’s exposure is reduced by 96.4%. More information about the CDC experiments.
Remember to wash cloth masks daily.
The CDC also recommends using a mask fitter with surgical or cloth masks to prevent air from leading around the edges of the mask. This COULD BE an ear guard or brace that can help protect others from droplets and particles, especially if you are having symptoms.
If one person is not wearing a mask and the other person is wearing a surgical mask (unknotted), the infectious particle exposure for the recipient is decreased by only 7.5%.
Infectious particle exposure is reduced by 64.5% when the recipient wears a knotted tucked surgical mask and by 83% when the recipient wears a cloth mask over the surgical mask.
Learn more about how facemasks work.
Learn more about COVID-19 and how it affects specific health conditions in these printable patient education materials.
Download COVID-19 Materials