• By Dana Sparks

Wearing a flu mask for influenza

February 4, 2020
a Caucasian man with a scarf and coughing

Wearing a mask might help protect you from the human influenza A and B viruses — the ones responsible for most seasonal outbreaks of influenza (flu).

Some studies have shown that using a surgical mask can help prevent the spread of influenza. Using a surgical mask and an alcohol-based hand sanitizer was shown to reduce the number of influenza-like illnesses even more than using a surgical mask alone. People who live in community housing — such as college dorms, nursing homes or military barracks — are at higher risk of influenza because they're in contact with more potentially infected people.

Influenza A and B viruses travel through the air in droplets when someone with the infection coughs, sneezes or talks. You can inhale the droplets directly, or you can pick up the germs from an object — such as a telephone or computer keyboard — and then transfer them to your eyes, nose or mouth.

Surgical-type masks may help block airborne influenza germs, and they may also prevent the transmission of germs from your hands to your mouth or nose. However, the best way to prevent influenza is to get your annual influenza vaccination.

This article is written by Dr. James M. Steckelberg and Mayo Clinic Staff. More health and medical information can be found on mayoclinic.org.