Airflows around oxygen masks: A potential source of infection?

Chest. 2006 Sep;130(3):822-6. doi: 10.1378/chest.130.3.822.


Patients with respiratory infections often require the use of supplemental oxygen via oxygen masks, which, in the hospital, may become sources of aerosolized infectious pathogens. To assess this risk, a human lung model (respiration rate, 12 breaths/min) was designed to test the potential for a simple oxygen mask at a common setting (4 L/min) to disperse potentially infectious exhaled air into the surrounding area. A laser sheet was used to illuminate the exhaled air from the mask, which contained fine tracer smoke particles. An analysis of captured digital images showed that the exhaled air at the peak of simulated exhalation reached a distance of approximately 0.40 m.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aerosols
  • Humans
  • Infection Control
  • Infectious Disease Transmission, Patient-to-Professional / prevention & control
  • Influenza A Virus, H5N1 Subtype / isolation & purification
  • Influenza, Human / transmission
  • Influenza, Human / virology
  • Masks / virology*
  • Models, Biological
  • Oxygen Inhalation Therapy / instrumentation*
  • Oxygen Inhalation Therapy / methods
  • Physical Stimulation / methods
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / transmission*
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / virology
  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome / transmission
  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome / virology
  • Severe acute respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus / isolation & purification
  • Video Recording / methods


  • Aerosols