Guidelines for Wearing Facemasks

Guidelines for Wearing Facemasks

The CDCTrusted Source revised its healthcare setting guidelines for flu prevention to include facemasks and respirators in 2010. They recommend that healthcare workers wear facemasks when working with patients who have the flu.

They also suggest offering facemasks to patients who show signs of respiratory infections. Respirators, however, are reserved for healthcare workers to wear during medical procedures.

If you’re sick and need to be around others, wearing a surgical mask properly can protect those around you from becoming infected with your illness.

Facemasks can help reduce the spread of the flu and other respiratory viruses — but only if they’re worn correctly and frequently.

For example, several people were excluded from the results of the International Journal of Infectious Diseases study because they didn't wear their masks properly or when they should have.

Here are some guidelines for proper mask-wearing:

  • Wear a facemask when coming within six feet of a sick person.
  • Position the strings to keep the mask firmly in place over the nose, mouth, and chin. Try not to touch the mask again until you remove it.
  • Wear a facemask before going near other people if you have the flu.
  • If you have the flu and need to see the doctor, wear a facemask to protect others in the waiting area.
  • Consider wearing a mask in crowded settings if the flu is widespread in your community or if you are at high risk for flu complications.
  • When you're done wearing the mask, throw it away and wash your hands. Never reuse a facemask.

Bottom Line: To Wear, or Not to Wear

When it comes to the flu, prevention is still the best method of keeping yourself safe from this highly contagious virus. A facemask may offer added protection against getting sick. There are no known risks to wearing these devices, except for the cost of buying them.

Masks do seem promising, but it’s also important to utilize other preventive measures, too. Make sure you wash your hands often during flu season — especially if you’re around others who may be sick. Also, be sure to get your annual flu shot to protect yourself and others from spreading the virus.