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Surgical masks and N95 masks lower the risk of spreading germs that cause infections. They do this by blocking respiratory particles in the air.
If you are infected, wearing a mask protects others. Particles do not travel through the air as easily when you breathe, cough, sneeze, or talk while wearing a mask.
If you wear a mask while an infected person is nearby, your mask protects you. A mask helps keep particles from reaching your nose, mouth, and lungs.
To be most effective, a mask should:
Change a face mask often. Also change a mask when it is wet or dirty.
N95 or KN95 masks are the most effective face mask when used properly. They fit close to the face and can filter small virus particles. You might hear these masks called "duck-bill masks."
N95 masks are for medical providers and other workers who need extra protection against particles in the air. If your child has a weak immune system, your care team might tell your child to wear an N95 face mask to protect against germs, mold, viruses, and bacteria.
For general wear, a surgical mask is a good choice. Standard surgical masks are made of 3 layers:
Together, these layers provide a barrier to reduce the spread of infections. If possible, you should only use masks given to you by your health care provider. Some masks sold in stores or online are counterfeit (fake) and do not provide enough protection. Do not use cloth masks.
Reviewed: September 2022