About face mask WHO
Why should people wear masks?
Masks are a key measure to suppress transmission and save lives. Masks reduce potential exposure risk from an infected person whether they have symptoms or not. People wearing masks are protected from getting infected. Masks also prevent onward transmission when worn by a person who is infected.
Masks should be used as part of a comprehensive ‘Do it all!’ approach including: physical distancing, avoiding crowded, closed and close-contact settings, improving ventilation, cleaning hands, covering sneezes and coughs, and more.
Who should wear what kind of mask?
Medical masks are recommended for the following groups:
- All health workers in clinical settings. See our guidance for more information on the use of personal protective equipment by health care workers.
- Anyone who is feeling unwell, including people with mild symptoms, such as muscle aches, slight cough, sore throat or fatigue.
- People caring for suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 outside of health facilities.
When they cannot guarantee a distance of at least 1 metre from others, medical masks are also recommended for the following groups, as they are at a higher risk of becoming seriously ill with COVID-19 and dying:
- People aged 60 or over.
- People of any age with underlying health conditions, including: chronic respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, cancer, obesity, immunocompromised patients and diabetes mellitus.
Non-medical, fabric masks are advised for use by the general public when physical distancing cannot be maintained, as part of a comprehensive ‘Do it all!’ approach, including improving ventilation; cleaning hands; covering sneezes and coughs, and more.
What is the difference between medical masks and respirators, like N95s?
Medical masks (also known as surgical masks)
- Made of three layers of synthetic nonwoven materials
- Configured to have filtration layers sandwiched in the middle.
- Available in different thicknesses.
- Have various levels of fluid-resistance and filtration.
Respirators (also known as filtering facepiece respirators – FFP) are available at different performance levels such as FFP2, FFP3, N95, N99
Respirator masks are designed to protect healthcare workers who provide care to COVID-19 patients in settings and areas where aerosol generating procedures are undertaken. Healthcare workers should be fit tested before using a respirator to ensure that they are wearing the correct size.