Do Face Masks Actually Protect Me, Or Just Those Around Me?

Q: I’ve read that wearing a face mask protects other people, but does it also protect me?

A: A face mask provides protection to those around you, as well as yourself. Face masks act as barriers for respiratory droplets. Whether you’re coughing and the droplets catch in the inside of your own mask, or if you’re near to someone else coughing and their droplets hit the outside of your mask – it protects both people.

Also, respiratory droplets aren’t spread solely by coughing and sneezing. They can be expelled by talking, singing, breathing heavily, laughing – you name it. That’s why it’s crucial to wear a face mask anytime you’re in public and cannot maintain social distance. You’re protecting those around you and also yourself.  

Typically, a surgical mask will protect you more than a cloth mask because of the material it’s made from, but a cloth mask still offers great protection. Small respiratory droplets carrying the virus can get caught in the cloth and not reach your nose or mouth. Just be sure not to touch the front of your mask as the virus can then get on your hands.

– Infectious disease specialist Kristin Englund, MD.