Face masks | SA Health

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Face masks lower your chance of catching and spreading an airborne virus.

Wearing a mask, getting vaccinated, staying home and testing when unwell helps protect you and others by reducing the spread of COVID-19.

When to wear a face mask

If you test positive to COVID-19 you should stay home until your acute symptoms have cleared. If you must leave the house, wear a mask when indoors or on public transport.

It is recommended you wear a face mask if you:

  • are a close contact and are indoors or on public transport.
  • visit a high-risk setting such as a clinical area in an aged care facility, disability facility or a hospital.
  • visit someone who is at risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
  • go to crowded indoor public places, travel on public transport, or when you cannot physically distance from others when COVID-19 cases in the community are high.

Hospitals, aged care facilities, disability care facilities, GPs and other healthcare sites may have policies requiring you to wear a mask to protect staff, patients and clients.

Masks may no longer be required in public areas at health care settings, however they may be required in clinical areas, including wards, clinics and Emergency Departments.

Children under 12 years are not required to wear a mask.

Masks or face coverings should not be worn by children under 2 years or anyone who has trouble breathing, is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.

Please be respectful to others as reasons for not wearing a mask are not always obvious.

How to wear a face mask

If you wear a mask, you need to wear it properly to make sure it is effective.

Before you put on a mask

  • Wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water or use hand sanitiser.

Fitting your mask

  • Make sure your mask fits securely around your face and covers your nose, mouth and chin.
  • Avoid gaps between the face and the mask.
  • If you are wearing a particulate filter respirator, check the fit (seal) by cupping your hands around the edges of the respirator and breath in and out. If you feel air escaping around the edges, reposition the mask and recheck. If you are unable to achieve a seal, try a different size or style of respirator.

While wearing your mask

  • Avoid touching the front of your mask while wearing it.
  • If you take off your mask to eat or drink, keep it somewhere clean such as your pocket, purse, or paper bag.
  • Replace your mask if it becomes damp or soiled.

After you have finished wearing your mask

  • Wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water or use hand sanitiser.
  • Single-use masks should not be re-used. Throw them away after use.
  • Wash your cloth mask after each use.
  • When you take off a single-use mask, dispose of it in a general rubbish bin (not recycling).

Choosing a face mask

Different types of masks provide different levels of protection.

Type of face masks

  • Particulate filter respirator (P2/N95 respirator or equivalent) provide the most protection when worn correctly.
  • Surgical masks provide good protection when worn correctly – fitting snugly over the nose, mouth and chin.
  • Reusable cloth masks should be made of three layers of tightly woven, breathable fabric to provide effective protection.

Particulate filter respirators provide the most protection and are recommended if you:

  • have tested positive to COVID-19 and need to leave your home
  • are caring for someone in your home who is sick with COVID-19
  • are visiting someone who may be more vulnerable to COVID-19, such as in an aged care facility, disability facility or a hospital
  • are at higher risk of severe illness.

Regardless of the type of mask, it is important that it is comfortable, covers the nose and mouth and fits closely to your face.

Scarves, bandannas, snoods/gaiters and face shields on their own are not good substitutes for masks.

Make sure that your mask does not have holes or a valve as this can allow infectious particles to escape when breathing out if you have COVID-19.



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Reasons to wear a mask

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