Can Wearing a Mask Weaken Your Immune System?   

Can Wearing a Mask Weaken Your Immune System?

Close up shot of a woman wearing a mask, in a coffee shop, talking with someone.
Clinical Contributors to this story:
Tamar Weinberger, M.D

Mask wearing has been a hot topic for the past few years, with some fearing - can wearing a mask weaken your immune system? 

We talked to immunologist Tamar Weinberger, M.D., to understand how your immune system works, and if wearing a mask can actually weaken your immune system. 

“There is no data to say wearing a mask would weaken your immune system. But, with less exposure to infections, your immune system will not be trained in how to fight those infections,” says Dr. Weinberger.

How Your Immune System Builds ‘Muscle Memory’

“It’s important to understand how your immune system works,” says Dr. Weinberger. “By wearing a mask you may get sick less often, and thus are less exposed to antigens and viruses. You can still have a healthy immune system, but your body won’t know how to fight off those intruders.”

Our immune system is a learning, growing entity – it’s a combination of cells, organs and proteins that are trained to identify, and fight off any foreign entity that enters the body. 

We are all born with an immune system, however it is not fully developed at birth. A mother passes on antibodies to her baby through the placenta and after birth, through breast milk. As the baby grows, and is exposed to different germs and viruses, their immune system will learn how to fight those infections.

“Getting sick builds your memory - we all have soldiers to fight infections, but they need to be trained,” says Dr. Weinberger. “As you get sick, you’re training your soldiers for the next time you’re faced with that same adversity. But, they will remember that intruder, react faster, and have a more robust response, ideally, lessening the severity of illness and length of sick time.”

Key takeaway: Masks are a great resource to prevent infection, especially for those who are older and at risk of complications of severe infections. Wearing a mask won't harm your ability to fight infection, it just prevents exposure.

Next Steps & Resources:

  • Meet our source: Tamar Weinberger, M.D.
  • To make an appointment with a physician near you, call 800-822-8905 or visit our website.

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.



Subscribe to get the latest health tips from our expert clinicians delivered weekly to your inbox.

We use cookies to improve your experience. Please read our Privacy Policy or click Accept.