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UPDATE
Given new evidence on the B.1.617.2 (Delta) variant, CDC has updated the guidance for fully vaccinated people. CDC recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status. Children should return to full-time in-person learning in the fall with layered prevention strategies in place.
UPDATE
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UPDATE
Travel requirements to enter the United States are changing, starting November 8, 2021. More information is available here.

Types of Masks and Respirators

Types of Masks and Respirators

Summary of Recent Changes

  • Added section on considerations for children

View Previous Updates

This page describes different types of masks and respirators you can use to protect yourself and others from getting and spreading COVID-19.

Masks are designed to contain your respiratory droplets and particles. They also provide you some protection from particles expelled by others.

Respirators are designed to protect you from particles, including the virus that causes COVID-19, and in doing so they also contain your respiratory droplets and particles so you do not expose others.

CDC continues to learn more about the effectiveness of different types of masks and respirators for preventing COVID-19.

Masks

Cloth Masks

Cloth Masks can be made from a variety of fabrics and many types of cloth masks are available.

Wear cloth masks with

  • A proper fit over your nose and mouth to prevent leaks
  • Multiple layers of tightly woven, breathable fabric
  • Nose wire
  • Fabric that blocks light when held up to bright light source
mask considerations tightly woven

Do NOT wear cloth masks with

  • Gaps around the sides of the face or nose
  • Exhalation valves, vents, or other openings (see example)
  • Single-layer fabric or those made of thin fabric that don’t block light
DO NOT choose masks that have exhalation valves or vents which allow virus particles to escape

Disposable Masks

Disposable face masks are widely available. They are sometimes referred to as surgical masks or medical procedure masks.

Wear disposable masks with

  • A proper fit over your nose and mouth to prevent leaks
  • Multiple layers of non-woven material
  • Nose wire
Disposable masks are widely available.

Do NOT wear disposable masks with

  • Gaps around the sides of the face or nose (see example)
  • Wet or dirty material
Masks with gaps around the sides of the face or nose

Ways to have better fit and extra protection with cloth and disposable masks

  • Wear two masks (disposable mask underneath AND cloth mask on top)
  • Combine either a cloth mask or disposable mask with a fitter or brace
  • Knot and tuck ear loops of a 3-ply mask where they join the edge of the mask
  • Use masks that attach behind the neck and head with either elastic bands or ties (instead of ear loops)
illustration of how to double up masks
Older man mask fitter
knot-and-fold-mask-horizontal

Masks that Meet a Standard

Some masks are designed and tested to ensure they perform at a consistent level. These masks are labeled to tell you what standard they meet.

Wear masks that are labeled as

These are new standards. Lists of masks that meet these standards and more information on their availability can be found on the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Personal Protective Equipment Info (PPE-INFO) webpage.

Do NOT wear

How to wear

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to wear, store, and clean or dispose of the mask properly.

Image of a mask that meets COVID-19 standards.

Respirators

Respirators that Meet International Standards

Some respirators are designed and tested to meet international standards. These respirators are labeled to tell you what standard they meet. Respirators approved by NIOSH are evaluated by NIOSH against a specific US standard that includes a quality requirement. International standards do not often have quality requirements.

The most widely available respirators that meet an international standard are KN95s.

Other examples include 1st, DL2, DL3, DS2, DS3, FFP2, FFP3, KN100, KP95, KP100, P2, P3, PFF2, PFF3, R95, and Special.

Do NOT wear

Counterfeit (fake) KN95 respirators

  • BE AWARE: About 60% KN95 respirators in the United States are counterfeit (fake) and DO NOT meet NIOSH requirements.
  • webpage and a webinar are available about factors to consider when purchasing an international respirator.

How to wear

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to wear, store, and clean or dispose of the respirator properly.

NIOSH-Approved Respirators

N95 woman in scrubs

NIOSH approves many types of filtering facepiece respirators. The most widely available are N95, but other types (N99, N100, P95, P99, P100, R95, R99, and R100) offer the same or better protection as an N95.

NIOSH-Approved N95 Respirators

When supplies are available, individuals may choose to use a basic disposable N95 respirator for personal use, instead of a mask, in some situations.

CDC recommends that specially labeled “surgical” N95 respirators should be prioritized for healthcare personnel.

Employers who want to distribute N95 respirators to employees shall follow an Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) respiratory protection programexternal icon.

What to know about N95s

  • Filter up to 95% of particles in the air when approved by NIOSH and proper fit can be achieved
  • Seal tightly to the face when fitted properly
  • Since N95 respirators form a seal to the face, they may feel harder to breathe through than a cloth mask
  • N95 respirators cannot be washed. They need to be discarded when they are dirty, damaged, or difficult to breathe through
  • N95 respirators tend to be more expensive than masks

Wear an N95 with

  • Cup, flat fold, or duck bill shape
  • Two straps that go around the head
  • Formable wire nose bridge
  • Appropriate markings printed on the filter indicating the N95 respirator has been approved by NIOSHimage icon

 Do NOT wear an N95

How to wear

  • Individuals who want to use a respirator for personal use should follow the user instructions exactly.
  • Fit testing (a process that uses specialized equipment) is the best way to determine if the respirator fits you. Even without fit testing, a well-fitting properly worn respirator may provide more protection than a mask. However, a poorly fitting or improperly worn respirator or mask may reduce its intended benefit.
  • NIOSH and OSHA have developed a video demonstrating how to perform a user seal check and how to properly put on (don) and take off (doff) a respirator, as well as a NIOSH factsheetpdf icon.

Considerations for Children

Masks

Anyone 2 years or older who is not fully vaccinated should wear masks in indoor public spaces. This recommendation also applies to fully vaccinated people when they are in an area of substantial or high transmission. CDC also currently recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status or transmission rates. The benefits of mask-wearing are well-established.

Respirators

Parents and caregivers may have questions about NIOSH-approved respirators (such as N95s) for children. Although respirators may be available in smaller sizes, they are typically designed to be used by adults in workplaces, and therefore have not been tested for broad use in children.

Selecting Masks:

  • Masks and respirators should not be worn by children younger than 2 years old.
  • Choose a well-fitting and comfortable mask or respirator that your child can wear properly. A poorly fitting or uncomfortable mask or respirator might be worn incorrectly or removed often, which would reduce its intended benefits.
    • Choose a size that fits over the child’s nose and under the chin but does not impair vision.
  • Follow the user instructions for the mask or respirator. These instructions may show how to make sure the product fits properly.
  • Some types of masks and respirators may feel different if your child is used to wearing a regular cloth or disposable mask.

Safety precautions:

  • If your child has a medical condition, such as a heart or lung problem, ask their healthcare provider before they use methods to improve mask fit or use an ASTM F3502 mask or a respirator.
  • If your child has a hard time breathing, gets dizzy, or has other symptoms while using methods to improve mask fit, an ASTM F3502 mask, or a respirator, ask them to switch to a regular cloth or disposable mask. They should continue to follow CDC guidance to protect themselves and others. Consult your healthcare provider if these symptoms do not resolve.

Alternative Masks for Special Situations

illustration of person wearing a mask with a clear plastic panel

Clear masks or cloth masks with a clear plastic panel are an alternative type of mask that may be helpful when interacting with certain groups of people, such as:

  • People who are deaf or hard of hearing
  • Young children or students learning to read
  • Students learning a new language
  • People with disabilities
  • People who need to see the proper shape of the mouth for making appropriate vowel sounds (for example, when singing)

The FDA recently approved a transparent medical mask. These transparent medical masks should be reserved for use by healthcare workers and patients who require them.

If you use this type of mask, make sure

  • You can breathe easily
  • Excess moisture does not collect on the inside of the mask

Choosing a Mask or Respirator for Different Situations

Taking care of someone who is sick with COVID-19

Some situations may have a higher risk of exposure to COVID-19 than others. So, you may want to consider the type of mask or respirator to wear depending on the situation. Always choose a well-fitting and comfortable mask or respirator and wear it properly (covering your nose and mouth). A poorly fitting or uncomfortable mask or respirator may be worn improperly or taken off frequently, which may reduce its intended benefit.

These situations might include:

*Note: The options listed on this page may be used to fulfill the requirements of CDC’s Mask Order for public transportation. Learn more about attributes of masks needed to fulfill the requirements of the Order at this website.

For more information on science behind improving how your mask protects you, see:

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