We have a cloth face mask and a surgical face mask in our History of Medicine Collection.
During the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic, face masks have become increasingly prevalent in daily life. In many countries it is now the law for face masks to be worn in certain settings where there is a high risk of virus transmission, including buses, shops, and other enclosed public spaces.
A face covering can be any cloth item that you use to cover your mouth and nose - for example, a scarf or bandana. You can buy single-use or reusable face coverings or make your own. Public Health England has issued guidance on how you can make your own cloth face coverings. You might also sometimes hear a face covering referred to as a ‘fabric mask’.
Medical or surgical face masks are those worn by healthcare and other workers, as part of personal protective equipment (PPE). They tend to be blue or green in colour, fit flat against the face from the nose to the chin, and have pleats or folds.
Listen to Dr Helene-Mari van der Westhuizen, researcher in tuberculosis transmission in Africa, talk about face masks here: