For the foreseeable future, masks are going to be a part of everyday life in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, not all masks are created equal. Not only are some types of protective face coverings more protective than others, but certain types of masks can even up the chances of transmission, result in negative health consequences, or even have a negative impact on the pandemic altogether. “Correct and consistent mask use is a critical step everyone can take to prevent getting and spreading COVID-19. Masks work best when everyone wears them, but not all masks provide the same protection. When choosing a mask, look at how well it fits, how well it filters the air, and how many layers it has,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains on one of their pages devoted to mask safety. They also reveal which masks should not be worn. Read on to find out if your mask is on their list—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.
Avoid Any Mask That Isn’t Breathable
There’s a reason masks aren’t generally made out of spandex, leather, or vinyl: they aren’t breathable. The CDC suggests staying away from masks that “are made of fabric that makes it hard to breathe.”
Avoid Valved Masks
At the start of the pandemic a lot of people were rocking valved masks, with the idea that the exhaust vents would make it easier to breath. However, the CDC says not to wear any masks that have exhalation valves or vents,w”hich allow virus particles to escape.”
Avoid Medical Masks
Sure, masks intended for medical professionals work. But, the supply needs to be reserved for them—not the general public. The CDC urges against any masks “intended for healthcare workers, including N95 respirators.”
Face Shields May Not Be So Effective
A face shield might seem more comfortable than a fabric mask, but the CDC specifically deems them “not recommended” as “evaluation of face shields is ongoing, but effectiveness is unknown at this time.”
Avoid a Single Layer Gaiter
Sure, you can wear a gaiter, but make sure it isn’t a single layer. “Wear a gaiter with two layers, or fold it to make two layers.”
Avoid a Scarf, Ski Mask, or Balaclava
“Scarves, ski masks and balaclavas are not substitutes for masks,” the CDC points out. However, they do mention that you can wear them over your mask.
Do Your Part to Stop COVID-19 and Save Yourself
Follow the fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—wear a face mask that fits snugly and is double layered, don’t travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, get vaccinated when it becomes available to you, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.