Non-medical masks: About

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Wear a mask to prevent COVID-19 spread

As increased rates of community transmission of COVID-19 continue in many areas across Canada, and as new variants of the COVID-19 virus are identified, it remains important that you wear a non-medical mask when:

Shared spaces can include:

Check with your local public health authority on the requirements for your location.

Wearing a mask alone won’t prevent the spread of COVID-19. You must also consistently follow personal preventive practices.

Materials, construction and fit

Well-constructed, well-fitting and properly worn non-medical masks can help protect you and others from COVID-19.

How well a non-medical mask works depends on the materials used, how the mask is made and how well it fits.

A non-medical mask can be homemade or purchased and should:

Does your mask fit properly? (printable poster)

Filters

Using a filter as a middle layer in your non-medical mask adds an extra layer of protection against COVID-19 by trapping smaller infectious respiratory particles.

You can include a filter in your non-medical mask by:

Reusable masks with a non-woven filter layer can be washed multiple times.

Disposable filters should be:

2-layer masks

Wearing a well-constructed and well-fitting 2-layer non-medical mask properly will still protect you and others around you.

Fit is important

A well-fitting mask should:

Proper use

A non-medical mask is most effective when it’s worn properly. Uncovering your nose or mouth while wearing a mask:

Wash your hands or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer when you:

It's important to keep your mask clean when not in use, or when eating or drinking.

Do not hang the mask from your ears or place it under your chin. Store it in a clean paper or cloth bag until you put it on again.

Change your mask as soon as possible if it gets damp or dirty. Place soiled masks in a secure, waterproof bag or container until you can wash them in the laundry.

Discard disposable masks and filters properly in a garbage container.

People at higher risk of exposure or more severe disease or outcomes

Some people are at higher risk of:

If you’re at higher risk, you should:

It’s important that you wear your mask properly.

If you’re sick or caring for someone who is sick

If you’ve been diagnosed with, or have symptoms of COVID-19, you should wear a medical mask if available when you:

If you’re providing care to someone who has been diagnosed with, or has symptoms of COVID-19, wear a medical mask.

If a medical mask is recommended but unavailable, wear a non-medical mask that’s well fitting, well constructed and that includes a filter layer.

Children and masks

Children under the age of 2 should not wear masks.

Between the ages of 2 and 5, children may be able to wear a mask if supervised. This will depend on their ability to tolerate it as well as put it on and take it off.

Children older than 5 should wear one in situations or settings where they're recommended. A child’s ability to properly use and care for their mask is impacted by factors such as:

People who are hard of hearing and clear masks

If you're hard of hearing or interact with people who use lip-reading to communicate, consider wearing a clear mask.

If a clear mask isn't available:

Clear masks can also be used in settings where facial expression is an important part of communication.

Face shields

Face shields do not replace masks, but can be worn in addition to a mask.

A face shield is used to protect the eyes of the person wearing it. Using a face shield without a mask won't protect you or others from infectious respiratory particles that can escape around the face shield.

If you're unable to wear a mask, you may want to wear a face shield. Choose one that extends around the sides of the face and below the chin. You'll still need to:

Neck gaiters (neck warmers)

Neck gaiters (also known as neck warmers) aren't recommended because they:

If a mask isn’t available and you must use a neck gaiter:

Scarves and bandanas

Scarves or bandanas aren’t recommended because they:

If a mask isn’t available, and you must use a scarf or bandana:

Masks with exhalation valves

Masks with exhalation valves or vents are not recommended. This is because they allow infectious respiratory particles to spread outside the mask. These masks do not protect others from COVID-19 or limit the spread of the virus.

Masks in the workplace

When implementing mask (medical or non-medical) wearing policies in the workplace, employers should consult:

There may be some non-health care work settings where medical masks may be more appropriate than non-medical masks.

Safety considerations

When wearing a non-medical mask, make sure that it:

Do not:

Stigma and those who can't wear masks

Some people may not be able to wear a mask. Be kind rather than making assumptions about those you see without them. For those unable to wear a mask, singling them out in public can be socially isolating and lead to anxiety.

Masks aren't recommended for:

Environmental considerations

Most disposable and single-use masks are mostly made of plastic. Growing quantities of disposable and single-use masks are being discarded in the regular garbage as there's little to no opportunity for recycling. This increases the amount of:

By choosing reusable masks, you can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 while also reducing your environmental impact.

If you must use a disposable mask, always make sure that you dispose of it properly in a garbage container.

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