If You Notice This With Your Mask, the CDC Says It's Not Working

Kali Coleman
·3 min read

Most of us have been wearing masks since last year, which is a key step in protecting ourselves and others from the spread of the coronavirus. There are many different kinds of masks, however, and not all of them provide the same level of protection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says your mask must "fit snugly" in order to actually protect you. But what exactly does it mean for a mask to fit snugly? According to the CDC, there are certain ways you can determine if your mask fits correctly and is protecting you from COVID. Read on to find out if your mask is working, and for more on mask safety, If You See This on Your Mask, the FDA Says Toss It Immediately.

The CDC says you should pay attention to how air flows from your mask.

Masks are meant to filter air through the material, as this helps trap potentially contaminated air droplets. The CDC says there are two air tests you can do to make sure your mask is fitting properly. First, you need to confirm that you can't feel any air "flowing from the area near your eyes or from the sides of the mask." If you don't notice air leaking from around the mask, then you should check to see if you feel warm air coming through the front of the mask, which means it has a good fit. According to the CDC, it's a good sign if you are also "able to see the mask material move in and out with each breath." And for more ways to keep yourself healthy, If You Wear Your Mask Like This, You're Not Getting "Maximal Protection."

You should also double-check your mask for any gaps.

According to the CDC, gaps in your mask are what "can let air with respiratory droplets leak in and out around the edges of the mask." Your mask should be fitted snugly over your nose, mouth, and chin. To check for gaps, cup your hands around the outside edges of the mask to see if you either notice any large gaps or feel air leaking out onto your hands from smaller gaps. And for more masks to avoid, This One Type of Face Mask Is "Unacceptable," Warns the Mayo Clinic.

There are certain ways you can help your mask fit better.

You don't automatically have to throw away a mask that doesn't fit properly, however. According to the CDC, there are two tools that can help you make a mask fit better: mask fitters and braces. Placing either of these devices over a disposable or cloth mask can "prevent air from leaking around the edges of the mask," the CDC says. If you're wearing an ear loop mask, you can also improve its fit by up to 20 percent by knotting and tucking the ear loops, according to Emily Sickbert-Bennett, PhD, director of Infection Prevention at UNC Hospitals. And for more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.

You should also make sure your mask has enough layers.

A well-fitting mask must also have enough layers to protect you. The CDC currently recommends masks with two or three layers and does not recommend masks with only one layer. You can either choose a cloth mask that has multiple layers of fabric, or layer your masks if you don't have a single mask with enough layers.

According to the CDC, the best way to layer is to wear one disposable mask underneath a cloth mask, as a cloth mask "should push the edges of the inner mask against your face." You should not, however, combine a KN95 mask with any other mask or use two disposable masks to layer, as they are "not designed to fit tightly and wearing more than one will not improve fit," the CDC says. And for more coronavirus news, This Is Where You're Most Likely to Catch COVID, New Study Says.