Masking for Infection Prevention
When you have symptoms of cold, flu, COVID-19 or other infections, wear a facemask to protect others, including health care providers, from catching your illness. Talk with your doctor if you have questions about wearing a facemask.
Types of Facemasks
- Cloth masks (especially double-layered) – for general public use
- Medical (or surgical) masks
- KN95, KF94, or other NIOSH approved respirators
- N95 filtering face piece respirator masks
What Are Medical Masks?
- Medical masks are disposable surgical masks (sometimes called “surgical masks”).
- They prevent sick people from spreading their germs through the air.
- Medical masks block droplets and aerosol particles containing viruses and bacteria that travel through coughs and sneezes. You can learn more about mask-fitting here.
- These masks fit loosely but completely cover your mouth and nose.
How to Put the Mask On
Here are the CDC directions for putting a mask on and taking it off safely.
- Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Dry your hands with a clean paper towel and throw the paper towel away.
- Check the mask for any defects such as a tear or missing tie or ear loop. Throw away any that are defective.
- Make sure the blue side of the mask is facing out, away from your face.
- Place the mask on your face with the blue side facing out and the stiff, bendable edge at the top by your nose.
- If the mask has ear loops, put one loop around each ear.
- If the mask has ties, pick up the mask by the ties and tie the upper ties behind your head with a bow.
- Once the mask is in place, use your index finger and thumb to pinch the bendable top edge of the mask around the bridge of your nose.
- If the mask has a lower tie, then once the mask is fitted to the bridge of your nose, tie the lower ties behind your head with a bow.
- Make sure the mask is completely secure. Make sure it covers your nose and mouth so that the bottom edge is under your chin.
- Wash your hands.
Removing the Mask
- Wash your hands before removing the mask.
- Do not touch the front of the mask (the part over nose and mouth). It may be contaminated from your breathing, coughing or sneezing.
- Untie or remove the ear loops and remove the mask by the straps.
- Throw the mask in the trash (if it’s a disposable mask; some respirators like N95s can be reused). You should also try to recycle your mask, if possible.
- Wash your hands.
Please Note: If you are using a reusable cloth mask, at the end of the day, take the mask off from the straps (not touching the front), place in a pillowcase to keep the ties with the mask. Wash it in the washing machine with hot water and completely dry on medium or high heat.
- N95 respirators are masks that can prevent a person from inhaling infectious particles.
- They must be fitted to each person and tested to assure that they are effectively preventing inhalation of infectious particles.
- The CDC recommends the general public wear this and other similar masks when taking extra precaution.
- The CDC recommends health care workers wear the N95 facemask in certain situations, such as when caring for patients with known or suspected COVID-19 or performing certain aerosol-generating procedures.
- Blocks 95% of small particles
- Fits securely on your face and against your skin
- Not designed for children or people with facial hair
- Some have exhalation valve to reduce condensation build-up
- Follow instructions that come with this mask
Talk with your doctor if you have questions about wearing a facemask.
This information has been reviewed and approved by Infection Preventionist Rosine Angbanzan, MPH (February 2022)