Is a mask going to keep you safe from coronavirus?

PEMBROKE PINES, Fla. – Widespread fear has more people turning to surgical masks to protect themselves from the coronavirus. But doctors say there are better ways to keep from getting sick.

As coronavirus fears sweep the country, many people are turning to protective face masks, hoping to keep the germs away.

Gwyneth Paltrow, Selena Gomez, and Kate Hudson are among those posting pictures of their face coverings while traveling.

But not all masks are created equal. The surgical face masks many people are turning to for protection from coronavirus likely won’t protect you, according to health officials.

These types of masks instead are recommended for people who are already sick, because they're designed to prevent a person from spreading germs from sneezing and coughing.

But there’s another type of mask called an n-95, or respirator mask, which the Food and Drug Administation says has a “very efficient filtration,” keeping out 95-percent of airborne particles. But health officials only recommend these for healthcare professionals who are in constant contact with sick patients.

“I think people see a mask and they see an illusion of protection that if they put the mask on, it’ll somehow block viruses from getting into their mouth or nose when they breathe. That’s just not the case. Anyone who does not have a respiratory illness, meaning a cough or sneezing, should not be wearing any type of mask where whether it’s a surgical mask or a respirator,” said Dr. David Eisenman.

How to stay safe from coronavirus

But that hasn’t stopped the public from buying up masks. Stores and websites are sold out.

ABC News gaining exclusive access inside a 3M factory in South Dakota where they’re working around the clock to meet demand.

Amazon even reportedly warning third party retailers that are reportedly taking advantage of this mask hysteria and raising prices by more than 400 percent.

Health officials are preparing for a potential shortage.

“The masks should be used for someone who is symptomatic. The public should not be buying masks. “

And believe it or not, by wearing a mask, you could be putting yourself at even more risk.

"People do not use their masks correctly. They play with it. They wear it too long. They rub their nose underneath it,” Eisenman said.


About the Authors:

Kristi Krueger has built a solid reputation as an award-winning medical reporter and effervescent anchor. She joined Local 10 in August 1993. After many years co-anchoring the 6 p.m. and 11 p.m., Kristi now co-anchors the noon newscasts, giving her more time in the evening with her family.

Michelle F. Solomon is the podcast producer/reporter/host of Local 10's original, true crime podcast The Florida Files and a digital journalist for Local 10.com. She has a bachelor's degree from Emerson College, Boston, and a master's degree from SUNY-Empire State.