You Asked, We Answered is a VA blog post series where VHA answers your questions regarding COVID-19. Find answers to previous questions here.
Construction, fit and consistent use each play an important role in how a face mask performs to protect against COVID-19. The purpose of a face mask is to fit snugly around your nose and mouth to reduce air leakage.
Masks are required in all VA facilities.
To protect yourself and others from COVID-19, CDC continues to recommend that you wear the most protective mask you can that fits well and that you will wear consistently.
What type should I wear?
There are many types of masks, each with advantages and drawbacks. Here’s a look at several options:
Best: N95 and KN95 masks are types of respirators. They can require more effort to breathe, may be more expensive and more difficult to obtain. Like other masks, proper fit is key. Some KN95 respirators sold in the U.S. may be counterfeit. Learn how to recognize counterfeit respirators here.
Better: Wear a surgical or disposable face mask underneath a cloth mask. This can provide enhanced protection by improving the fit of the masks while adding another layer of protection.
Good: Surgical Masks or disposable face masks are easy to obtain, tend to be less costly, and are disposable. They may fit loosely, and there may be gaps around the sides of your face or nose.
Not Recommended (alone): Cloth masks can be made from a variety of natural and synthetic fabrics and fibers. They are easy to obtain, are reusable, and are the least costly mask option. However, they can fit poorly, and there may be gaps around the sides of your face or nose.
Proper fit and performance
Whichever mask type you choose, consider these tips for improving fit and performance:
- Bend the nose wire over your nose to conform to your face
- Shave or trim your beard close to the face
- Use a mask fitter or brace
- Knot the ear loops
- Tuck any additional material underneath the edges to ensure a tighter fit
- Wear two masks – specifically, one disposable mask underneath a cloth mask