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Dr. Mike in a mask

Types of Masks Used to Prevent COVID-19

There are a few different types of masks that can be utilized to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases. Read more for information about the different types of masks.

On July 10th, 2020, a mask mandate went into effect for Hamilton County, Tennessee. You can read more about this mandate including fast facts, restrictions, and expectations for Lung Docs patients here


Surgical Masks

Also called a “medical mask,” a surgical mask is a loose-fitting, disposable mask that filters out large particles in the air. Surgical masks provide a barrier for the wearer’s nose and mouth from possible contact with splashes and sprays that may contain germs, and they protect others by reducing exposure to the respiratory secretions (saliva and mucus) unintentionally expelled by the mask wearer. All humans can release these when coughing, sneezing, talking, laughing, singing, etc. 


At this time, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved any type of surgical mask specifically for protection against COVID-19, however, these masks may provide some protection when N95 masks are not available.


N95 Masks

N95 masks are actually a type of respirator. Due to their ability to filter both large and small particles out of the air when the wearer inhales, N95 masks offer more protection than surgical masks. As the name indicates, they are designed to block 95% of particles. Some N95 masks have exhalation valves that make them easier to breathe through and keep the face cooler. These are typically seen in hardware stores, and they are intended for the wearer’s protection from paint fumes, sawdust, mold, etc. Some places have banned their use because it does not prevent the wearer from spreading the virus.


Healthcare providers must be trained and pass a fit test to confirm a proper seal before using a N95 respirator in the workplace; they are made to form a very tight seal on the face. Like surgical masks, N95 masks are intended to be disposable, however, due to issues with a shortage of PPE in the United States, researchers are currently testing ways to disinfect N95 masks so they can be safely reused. 

Cloth Masks

Cloth face masks should be worn in public settings where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain — such as grocery stores, animal shelters, and any other business who asks them to be worn in order to shop in their establishment.


Here are a few tips for putting on and taking off a cloth mask:

  • Place your mask over your mouth AND YOUR NOSE. It is very important that both be covered.
  • Tie it behind your head, or use the ear loops — but make sure the mask is snug.
  • Don’t touch your mask while wearing it. 
  • If you accidentally touch your mask, wash or sanitize your hands immediately.
  • Remove the mask by untying it or lifting off the ear loops without touching the mask or your face.
  • Wash your hands immediately after removing your mask.
  • Regularly wash your mask with soap and water in the washing machine — it’s fine to launder it with other clothes. 

Mask Precautions:

  • Don’t put masks on anyone who has trouble breathing, is unconscious, or is otherwise unable to remove the mask without help.
  • Don’t put masks on children younger than 2 years of age.
  • Don’t use face masks as a substitute for social distancing. Masks, social distancing, and washing your hands are all important components that work together to help avoid getting COVID -19. 


For more information about the use of cloth masks — including how to make one yourself — visit the CDC’s website

If you have questions about masks, concerns about COVID-19, or any other lung-related questions, give us a call at 423-710-3864 or request an appointment online


  • TS

    Thank you, Dr. Mike! I look forward to your updates and information and rely on you as a trustworthy source. Your dedication to your patients and the general population who take the time time read and watch your videos is outstanding. You work very hard and are very thorough. Again, you are a very trustworthy professional and this is so important during a time that we often don’t know who to believe anymore. BRAVO! Keep up the good work and know that my thoughts and prayers are with you as you carry the torch for us!

    July 17, 2020 19:07

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