Outdoor FFP2 masks: useful or nonsensical? – Coronavirus Vienna

A wet FFP2 mask is even counterproductive.

Should you wear FFP2 masks outdoors? According to experts, “jogging, running, hiking, walking is absolutely harmless”. There is practically no infection.

FFP2 masks have been widespread in everyday life in Austria since the third corona lockdown was relaxed, as they are mandatory in many public areas. While some doubt the sense of wearing the “Filtering Face Pieces” of protection class 2 outside of the health sector from the outset, many people now use them outdoors, not only at ski lifts or markets and without any regulations.

FFP2 masks outdoors: The fact check

CLAIM: If you really want to protect yourself from Corona, you also have to wear an FFP2 mask outside.

FACTS: Throughout Austria, particle-filtering FFP2 masks without an exhalation valve must be worn in public transport and in shops, which not only protect the person opposite, but also the wearer.

Experts have long agreed: the risk of corona infection is much higher indoors than in the fresh air. Nevertheless, some people there also pull their FFP2 masks over their noses and mouths.

Aerosols diluted quickly outdoors

The reason for this is probably the fear of getting caught in a so-called aerosol cloud. This forms in all people by exhaling in front of the mouth and can contain coronaviruses in infected people. When people talk to each other, these aerosols are practically blown into the face of the conversation partner. While viruses can collect in unventilated rooms, the exhaled air in the open air is quickly diluted and transported away, as the Society for Aerosol Research (GAeF) in Cologne explains.

The former President of the International Society for Aerosols in Medicine, Gerhard Scheuch, considers a brief encounter with people in the fresh air to be harmless. The amount of viruses that you might get off in passing is not enough for an infection, said the advisor to the European Medicines Agency (EMA). “Jogging, running, hiking, walking, I consider that to be absolutely harmless.”

“Virtually no infections” outdoors

The GAeF also gives the all-clear in its position paper: “In the open air there are almost no infections caused by aerosol particles.” However, caution should be exercised in groups in which no minimum distances are observed and / or no masks are worn – for example during longer conversations.

So far, for the German Robert Koch Institute (RKI), people who stand together with an infected person for longer than 15 minutes without any protection and less than 1.5 meters apart are considered to be contact persons with a “higher risk of infection”.

On the other hand, wearing a mouth and nose cover for too long can be quite counterproductive: because the moist exhaled air reduces the effectiveness of the FFP2 masks. The GAeF warns that the material will lose its electrical charge over time. Not only the German Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM) warns: “A moistened mask should be removed and changed.”

Wet masks are counterproductive

According to the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathematics in Kaiserslautern, there is also the risk of a so-called infection bridge between the wearer and the environment: With moist material, even with FFP2 models, for example, coughing or sneezing could throw droplets from the outer surface of the mask into the environment .

In principle, from the manufacturer’s point of view, FFP2 masks are not intended for reuse. According to experts from the Münster University of Applied Sciences, who have been studying these models for months, masks that have been moistened with breath can also be reprocessed up to five times – by drying them in the air for at least a week.


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