Face shields and goggles
For example, people who interact with those who are deaf or hearing impaired may find that a face shield is better than a mask when communicating. If you must wear a face shield instead of a mask:
- Choose a face shield that wraps around the sides of your face and extends below your chin or a hooded face shield. This is based on the limited available data that suggest these types of face shields are better at preventing spray of respiratory droplets.
- Wash your hands after removing the face shield. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth when removing it.
- Clean and disinfect reusable face shields according to the manufacturer’s instructions or by following CDC face shield cleaning instructions. If you use a disposable face shield, wear it once and throw it away according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Mask adaptations and alternatives
CDC recognizes that wearing masks may not be possible in every situation or for some people. Those who cannot wear a mask are urged to prioritize virtual engagement when possible. For in-person activities, we have provided a few examples of what you can do to make wearing a mask more feasible and how to reduce the spread of COVID-19 if you cannot wear a mask.
Situations where wearing a mask may not be possible
- Make sure to maintain physical distance from others when you cannot wear a mask.
- CDC recommends wearing a mask while dining in a restaurant, particularly indoors and when speaking with restaurant workers and servers, except when actively eating or drinking. The risk of COVID-19 spread increases in a restaurant or bar setting as interactions within 6 feet of others increase. Masks may reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread when worn in any of these risk scenarios.
- Do not wear a mask when doing activities that may get your mask wet, like swimming at the beach or pool. A wet mask can make it difficult to breathe and may not work as well when wet.
High intensity activities
- Masks should always be used in public settings, but if you are unable to wear a mask because of difficulty breathing during high intensity activities, choose a location with greater ventilation and air exchange (for instance, outdoors versus indoors) and where you can keep at least 6 feet of distance from others during the activity. If such a location is not available, opt for low-intensity activities such as walking or yoga that allow for mask wearing.
- If you are able to wear a mask, remove your mask if it gets moist from sweat and replace it with a clean mask.
- Opt for an activity that does not require using mouth guards or helmets. Wearing a mask with these types of protective equipment is not safe if it makes it hard to breathe.
- Supervise children who are wearing a mask while playing sports.
Certain groups of people who may find it difficult to wear a mask
Some children 2 years and older, and people of any age with certain disabilities
Appropriate and consistent use of masks may be challenging for some children and for people of any age with certain disabilities, including people who have high sensitivity to materials on their faces, difficulty understanding why wearing a mask is protective (such as those with an intellectual disability), or those who have problems controlling their behavior.
When determining if children and people with certain disabilities should wear a mask, assess their ability to:
- Use a mask correctly
- Avoid frequent touching of the mask and their face
- Limit sucking, drooling, or having excess saliva on the mask
- Remove the mask without assistance
Those caring for children and people with certain disabilities who may need assistance with wearing masks should
- Ask their healthcare provider for advice about the person you are caring for wearing a mask. If they are unable to wear a mask, ask their healthcare provider about alternative ways of reducing transmission risk
- Ensure proper mask size and fit
- Remove their mask before sleeping, napping, when they may fall asleep (such as in a car seat or stroller), and in situations when continual supervision is not possible
- Consider prioritizing wearing a mask in public settings and when around people who don’t live in your household, particularly when indoors. Masks may not be necessary when you and the person you are caring for are outside and away from others, or with other people who live in the same household. However, some localities may have mask mandates while out in public and these mandates should always be followed.
Masks should not be worn by:
- Child under 2 years of age
- A person with a disability who cannot wear a mask, or cannot safely wear a mask, for reasons related to the disability
- A person for whom wearing a mask would create a risk to workplace health, safety, or job duty as determined by the workplace risk assessmentexternal icon
People who are deaf or hard of hearing, and those who will interact with people who are hearing impaired
If you interact with people who rely on reading lips, you may have difficulty communicating while wearing a mask.
- Consider wearing a clear mask or a cloth mask with a clear panel
- If you are not able to get a clear mask, consider using written communication, closed captioning, or decreasing background noise to make communication possible while wearing a mask that blocks lips
People with certain underlying medical conditions
Most people with underlying medical conditions can and should wear masks.
- If you have respiratory conditions and are concerned about wearing a mask safely, discuss with your healthcare provider the benefits and potential risks of wearing a mask.
- If you have asthma, you can wear a mask. Discuss with your healthcare provider if you have any concerns about wearing a mask.
If you work in a setting where masks could increase the risk of heat-related illness or cause safety concerns (for example, straps getting caught in machinery):
- Discuss with an occupational safety and health professional what mask would be suitable.
- Prioritize wearing masks indoors and when in close contact with other people, like during group travel or shift meetings. Some localities may require wearing masks in public while outdoors, and these requirements should be followed.
- In cold weather, wear masks under winter gear such as scarves and ski masks. If masks become wet from breathing or snow, replace them with dry ones. Keep one or more backups for this purpose.
What to do if you find wearing a mask uncomfortable?
- It may help to practice wearing a mask at home for short periods to get used to the feeling and try different styles and fabrics recommended above.
- Try relaxation techniques such as breathing in and out deeply or listening to soothing music while wearing a face mask, which can help to keep you calm.
Mask use and carbon dioxide
Wearing a mask does not raise the carbon dioxide (CO2) level in the air you breathe
A cloth mask does not provide an airtight fit across the face. The CO2 completely escapes into the air through the cloth mask when you breathe out or talk. CO2 molecules are small enough to easily pass through any cloth mask material. In contrast, the respiratory droplets that carry the virus that causes COVID-19 are much larger than CO2, so they cannot pass as easily through a properly designed and properly worn cloth mask.
- In cold weather, masks may become wet from breathing, snow, or other precipitation. Change a mask when it becomes wet. A wet mask is harder to breathe through, is less efficient at preventing your respiratory droplets from reaching others, and allows for more respiratory droplets to escape around the edges of the mask. It is especially important to have one or more replacement masks during cold weather. If your reusable mask becomes wet, put it in a sealed plastic bag until you can wash it.
- Scarves and other headwear such as ski masks and balaclavas used for warmth are usually made of loosely knit fabrics that are not suitable for use as masks to prevent COVID-19 transmission. They can be worn over a mask.
- If you wear glasses, find a mask that fits closely over your nose or has a nose wire to help reduce fogging. Consider using an antifogging spray that is made for eyeglasses.