*Infants and children under 2 years of age should not wear a mask. Children ages 2 to 8 should wear a mask only when under adult supervision. See Who should not wear a mask and Special considerations for persons with communication difficulties or certain disabilities for other exceptions.
COVID-19 spreads when an infected person breathes out droplets and very small particles that contain the virus. These droplets and particles can then be breathed in by other people or land on their eyes, noses, or mouth.
|Know which Masks Provide the Best Protection Against COVID-19|
Well-fitting respirators such as:
There are many types of masks you can use to protect against getting and spreading COVID-19. Choose a mask:
If you will be in a place where COVID-19 spreads more easily you should wear your most protective mask, especially if you are at high risk of getting sick from COVID-19.
Examples of more protective masks include:
Note: You can get good filtration from high-quality cloth masks made of multiple layers that include a layer or filter made of synthetic non-woven material (such as melt-blown polypropylene). Disposable respirators such as N95s and medical masks are made of multiple layers of this kind of material.
See CDC’s Types of Masks and Respirators — Choosing a Mask or Respirator for Different Situations and CDPH's Get the Most Out of Masking and Masks for Kids: Tips and Resources pages.
Cloth masks (also called reusable masks) work best if they are tight fitting and made of materials that filter out small particles. For extra protection, wear a cloth mask OVER a medical mask (see Double masking).
Note: Some cloth ("reusable") masks are designed and tested to demonstrate that they perform at a consistent level. The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) has set a standard (ASTM F3502) for barrier face coverings, including cloth ("reusable") masks. Masks rated as ASTM F3502-Level 2 for particle filtration provide better protection than Level 1. The most protective masks have a particle filtration efficiency of at least 95%. If you are considering purchasing a cloth mask that is not ASTM rated, look for one that has been tested by an accredited third-party laboratory. Ratings for some commercially available face masks are published on the CDC website Barrier Face Coverings and Workplace Performance/Performance Plus Masks.
Also called surgical, medical procedure, disposable, or dental masks. These include various types of loose-fitting disposable masks.
Some disposable masks are designed and tested to demonstrate that they perform to certain standards. These include the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standards F2100 or F3502. The most protective masks have a particle filtration efficiency of at least 95%. Look for masks that have been tested by an accredited third-party laboratory.
Respirators (such as N95, KN95, and KF94)
Respirators are specialized masks that are designed to filter out very small particles. There are many types of respirators. N95 and KN95 respirators are disposable respirators that are designed to filter at least 95% of airborne particles. KF94s are made to filter at least 94%.
Respirators that fit well and provide a tight seal on your face protect you better than a cloth mask or a medical mask. They may be less comfortable because they filter better and fit more tightly.
For more detailed information, see CDC Respirators.
Certain types of facial hair, like beards, can make mask fitting difficult. People with beards can trim them, use a mask fitter/brace or double mask.
Tips to check that your mask fits
Wearing two masks or “double masking”
“Double masking” is when a well-fitting cloth mask is worn on top of a medical mask. This makes the medical mask fit better and adds extra layer(s) of protection.
How to put on a mask
How to take off a mask
Removing your mask temporarily (e.g., to eat or drink)
TIP! It is recommended to have more than one mask readily available so that a dirty or wet mask can be easily replaced with a clean one. When you are out, carry a spare mask and hand sanitizer. If your mask gets damp or wet, replace it with a clean dry one.
The following people should not wear a mask:
Note: Underlying medical conditions
Most people with underlying medical conditions, including those with asthma can and should wear a mask, unless instructed not to by their doctor. Wearing a mask does not reduce a person’s oxygen supply or cause a build-up of carbon dioxide. If you or someone you care for has an underlying health condition and you have concerns about wearing a mask, talk to your doctor. They will discuss the benefits and potential risks with you.
Clear masks or cloth masks with a clear plastic panel are an alternative type of mask for people who interact with:
A face shield is a transparent barrier that covers the face and is typically open at the sides and bottom. Face shields are often worn by healthcare workers in addition to medical masks, to protect their eyes from splashes and sprays of body fluids.
A face shield alone cannot be used in place of a mask.
Face shields with drapes
Although they may not work as well as masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19, a face shield with a drape attached on the bottom edge that is either form fitting under the chin or tucked into a shirt or collar can be used by people who cannot wear a mask due to a disability or medical condition. For more information on face shields plus drape including a photograph see the CDPH Face Shield Frequently Asked Questions.
Do NOT put a plastic face shield on newborns or infants.