FactCheck Social Media

Medical mask colour instructions are misleading and false

2020-08-13 18:17:09

The Statement

A Facebook post claims medical face masks being used to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 are designed to be worn differently depending on the health of the wearer.

The post shows an infographic headed, “The correct way to use a medical mask” and claims that masks should be worn “colored side out if you are sick and do not want to spread germs around”.

It also claims the white side of the mask is “the filter part” to be worn facing out when the wearer is not sick, to prevent germs getting in.

The July 29 post has been viewed more than 2.3 million times and shared by more than 160 users.

A Facebook post
 A post claims the coloured side of a mask should be worn on the outside when a person is sick. 

The Analysis

The Facebook post falsely advises that the “correct” way to use a face mask is to have the coloured side facing out if a person is sick and the white side out if they’re healthy. The post’s claim goes against advice outlined by the World Health Organization.

In an instructional video (1min14sec) on March 9, Dr April Baller from WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme explains how to wear a medical mask correctly.

Dr Baller says the inside of the mask is “usually the white side”, advice she reiterates in another video on June 5.

Providing more detail, Dr Seto Wing Hong, co-director of the WHO Collaborating Center for Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Control, addresses the claim in this video.

“You see it (the mask) has the blue colour on the outside because it is waterproof and then you have white on the inside because it is absorbent,” he said. “So, if I cough, it absorbs it… so, you gotta wear it like this – blue on the outside, white on the inside.”

In the same video, Dr Wing Hong also stresses the importance of wearing the mask the correct way up, with the metal wired edge running over the nose.

A WHO infographic details how to wear a medical mask safely with an instruction that says “ensure the coloured-side faces outwards”. There is no advice that the coloured and white sides are used to indicate the health of the wearer.

Versions of the post have been fact checked here, here, here and here.

A nurse wearing a mask
 WHO says people wearing medical masks should “ensure the coloured-side faces outwards”. 

The Verdict

Based on the evidence, AAP Factcheck found the claims in the Facebook post to be false. The post incorrectly advises people to have the coloured side facing out if they are sick and the white side out if they are healthy.

FalseThe primary claims in the post are factually inaccurate.

* AAP FactCheck is accredited by the Poynter Institute’s International Fact-Checking Network, which promotes best practice through a stringent and transparent Code of Principles. https://aap.com.au/