5 Biggest Face Mask Wearing Mistakes

by Kroger Health Staff

Last Updated: January 11, 2021

We know wearing a mask isn’t the most natural thing to do. It can feel awkward and uncomfortable and make it difficult for some to breathe. But the discomfort of wearing a mask can offer protection from catching COVID-19 or transmitting the virus to a vulnerable person.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends all Americans two years of age, and older wear a cloth face mask in public. A mask that is worn correctly will offer some protection from coughs and sneezes, which may carry the virus. Studies show a cough produces 3,000 droplets, and a sneeze can produce up to 40,000 tiny droplets. The virus can remain in small droplets for hours. So, masks can create a simple barrier that prevents the droplets from reaching and potentially infecting other people.

But your mask can only offer protection for yourself and those around you if your mask is worn properly. Here are the biggest mistakes people make when wearing masks:
  1. Pulling the mask down to talk.
    The mask should not expose your mouth or nose, so even if you are having difficulty communicating, it is important to keep the mask on your face. Instead, slow down your speaking and allow a little more space between your words to help each sound more distinct.
  2. Not covering your nose.
    Since your mouth and nose are among the main transmission sources, masks are only effective if they cover both ways you breathe. To make sure it is providing enough coverage, the top of your mask should extend to the bridge of your nose and fit snugly against the sides of your face.
  3. Exposing your chin.
    The bottom of the mask should reach to just below your chin. If it doesn’t, germs can spread from your mouth to those around you, so you should get a larger one.
  4. Wearing your mask around your chin.
    Some people have gotten into the habit of pulling their mask down around their chin frequently. Doing so can increase your risk of infection, so under no circumstances should you pull your mask around your chin or take it off and put it back on when you are in public.
  5. Touching your mask too often.
    Your mask is meant to stop droplets from getting in your nose and mouth, so they are on the outside of the mask if the mask is working properly. Every time you touch your mask, you are at risk of getting the virus on your hands. It is important to only touch your mask when necessary and wash your hands frequently and wash your mask daily.

Masks can reduce the spread of the virus from contagious people--whether or not they have visible symptoms—and those in the earliest stage of infection who have yet to develop symptoms.

For more guidance on the correct way to wear a mask, visit the CDC website.

Disclaimer: The information in this story is accurate as of its publication. However, the situation surrounding COVID-19 is ever-evolving. We are working to keep our stories up-to-date as changes occur, but we also encourage everyone to check news and recommendations from the CDC, WHO, and their local authorities.