In Brief

Don't wear masks with valves, CDC says

People should wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but not those with exhalation valves or vents, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

Masks with these one-way valves are intended for use in construction work, allowing users to breathe in filtered air and exhale warm, moist air through the valve, according to The Washington Post. These valves reduce heat and moisture inside masks, making them more comfortable to wear for long periods.

But this design doesn't prevent the spread of infectious diseases. The main reason for wearing masks in the COVID-19 era is to prevent respiratory droplets from traveling into the air when a person coughs, sneezes or talks, the CDC says. But when a mask has a valve, respiratory droplets from the wearer are expelled into the air and could reach other people.

"This type of mask does not prevent the person wearing the mask from transmitting COVID-19 to others," the CDC says on its website

Many airlines have already banned customers from wearing masks with valves on flights, the Post reported. American Airlines is the latest airline to announce a ban, which takes effect on Aug. 19, according to a statement from the airline issued Wednesday (Aug. 12).

The CDC does recommend wearing cloth masks when in public, and notes that surgical and N95 masks should be reserved for health care workers and first responders.

Originally published on Live Science.  

Rachael Rettner

Rachael is a Live Science contributor, and was a former channel editor and senior writer for Live Science between 2010 and 2022. She has a master's degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a B.S. in molecular biology and an M.S. in biology from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has appeared in Scienceline, The Washington Post and Scientific American.