Illustration of the correct and incorrect ways to wear a mask

It's no myth: It not only matters if you wear a mask but also how you wear it.

Wearing a mask to protect against coronavirus has become part of daily life for Marylanders.

Though wearing a mask is one of the most important things you can do to prevent coronavirus infection, there are still many misunderstandings about:

  • How safe and effective masks are
  • How to use them properly
  • When and where masks are needed

Discover the facts behind the myths about coronavirus masks.

Mask Safety and Effectiveness

Myth: Cloth masks don't protect you.

Fact: Cloth face masks are effective. They create a barrier between your mouth and nose and those around you. This makes it more difficult for the droplets that spread coronavirus through coughs, sneezes and talking to reach other people.

Cloth masks mainly keep you from unknowingly spreading the disease to others, but some studies indicate that they may help protect you from large droplets and serve as an indirect reminder to avoid touching your face.

This is why wearing a cloth mask inside all retail stores and public transportation has been mandatory in Maryland since April 2020. And as more services such as getting a haircut or eating in a restaurant are being allowed, it is as important as ever to continue wearing a mask. We're all in this together.

Myth: Other masks are more effective than cloth masks.

Fact: Different types of masks serve different purposes, but cloth masks are highly effective for the general public. The average person who is not working in a medical environment with COVID-19 patients should wear a cloth mask to conserve personal protective equipment (PPE) for medical workers.

Myth: Masks can cause carbon dioxide (CO2) build-up.

Fact: Some people have suggested that carbon dioxide from exhaling gets trapped under the cloth and can make you sick. This isn't true. Properly fitted masks offer adequate airflow while still covering your nose and mouth. This makes the accumulation of carbon dioxide impossible.

However, people with breathing problems, children under age 2, and those who can't remove the mask without assistance should not wear one.

How to Wear Masks

Myth: The way you wear a mask is not important.

Fact: Wearing a mask correctly is the key to making it effective at preventing the spread of the coronavirus. According to the CDC, a cloth face mask needs to have the following in order to be effective:

  • Cover both your nose and mouth
  • Fit snugly but comfortably against the sides of the face
  • Be secured with ties or ear loops
  • Have multiple layers of fabric
  • Allow for unrestricted breathing
  • Able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or shape changes

Where and When to Wear a Mask

Myth: You only need to wear a mask if you feel sick.

Fact: According to the CDC, studies suggest that many people who have coronavirus are asymptomatic, meaning they show no symptoms. You may have the disease and unknowingly spread it to others, including those with underlying conditions who have a higher coronavirus risk and are more vulnerable to severe illness. Asymptomatic carriers can increase the disease's spread if they aren't taking proper precautions, including wearing a mask, washing their hands frequently and social distancing.

Myth: If you're home, you don't need to wear a mask.

Fact: In most cases, this is true. However, if you do feel sick, have mild symptoms, and live with others, it's important to wear a mask to protect them.

Do not leave your home. Try to isolate yourself from healthy people you live with. Be sure to wear a mask if you leave your quarantine room or if they enter the room you're quarantining in.

Myth: If you've had coronavirus, you don't need a mask.

Fact: If you've had a coronavirus before or had an antibody test come up positive, you may believe that you don't need to wear a mask. Unfortunately, at this time, there is no way to know whether having coronavirus once provides immunity from the virus again or how long that your immunity might last. This means that you could potentially catch the disease again and spread it to others.

Everyone should wear a cloth mask when in public unless they have breathing problems, are under age two, or can't remove the mask without assistance.

Myth: You don't need to wear a mask outside.

Fact: At this time, being outside is generally considered safer than being inside. When taking a stroll or participating in other outdoor activities by yourself or with people you live with, a mask isn't required.

However, when you find it difficult to maintain at least six feet of distance from people you don't live with – such as exercising on a sidewalk or eating out at a restaurant – it's important to have your mask on. You should always have your mask on hand when you leave your home.

Myth: If I'm wearing a mask, I don't need to stay home.

Fact: As we each make decisions about going out safely, masks are just one strategy in a toolbox of different prevention measures.

Wearing a mask is highly effective and can make your daily life safer for those around you, but it's not a permission slip to "return to normal."

It's important to stay home when you can and continue practicing other coronavirus prevention measures like social distancing to help reduce the spread.