Non-medical masks and face coverings: About

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Wear a non-medical mask or face covering to prevent COVID-19 spread

Strong public health actions are needed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

To protect yourself and others, wear a non-medical mask or face covering when:

Mandatory use of masks or face coverings

Public health officials make recommendations for wearing masks based on a number of factors. These factors include rates of infection and/or transmission in the community. In some jurisdictions, the use of masks is now mandatory in many indoor public spaces and on public transit. Check with your local public health authority on the requirements for your location.

Proper material, structure and fit

Well-designed and well-fitting masks or face coverings can prevent the spread of your infectious respiratory droplets. They may also help protect you from the infectious respiratory droplets of others.

How well a mask or face covering works depends on the materials used, how the mask is made, and most importantly, how well it fits.

A mask or face covering can be homemade or purchased, and should:

Filters

Filters add an extra layer of protection against COVID-19 by trapping small infectious particles. Consider wearing a mask that includes a filter or filter material as one of its layers, such as:

Check out how to make your own face covering with a filter.

Reusable masks with a non-woven filter layer should be washed daily, and can be washed multiple times. Disposable filters should be changed daily or as directed by the manufacturer.

People at higher risk of exposure and more severe illness

If you're at higher risk of more severe illness if you get COVID-19 or exposure to COVID-19 because of your work or living situation, you should wear a non-medical mask or face covering that includes a layer of filter fabric or a replaceable filter.

Consider wearing a medical mask if one is available to you.

Medical masks are face coverings that make medical claims of reducing or preventing COVID-19 for the user. They're regulated as Class I medical devices.

Children and masks

Children under the age of 2 should not wear masks or face coverings.

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.

Hearing impairments and clear masks

If you're hearing impaired, 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.

Appropriate use and storage

Masks and face coverings are only effective if worn properly. Uncovering your nose or mouth while wearing one:

Don't hang the mask or face covering from your ears or place it under your chin.

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

Store it in a clean paper or cloth bag until you put it on again.

Soiled masks or face coverings should be placed in a secure, waterproof bag or container until they can be washed in the laundry.

Safety considerations

When wearing a non-medical mask or face covering:

Know the do's and don'ts of non-medical mask and face covering safety (instructions with printable poster).

Face shields

Face shields do not replace masks or face coverings.

A face shield is used to protect the eyes of the person wearing it. Using a face shield without a mask won't protect:

If you're unable to wear a mask or face covering, 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 neck gaiter must be used as a face covering:

Masks with exhalation valves

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

Stigma and those who can't wear masks

Some people may not be able to wear a mask or face covering. Be kind rather than making assumptions about those you see without them. For those unable to wear one, 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 and face coverings, 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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