The face mask helps people feel safe against pollution and virus. Nevertheless, all kinds of masks don’t work similarly. For example, surgical masks don’t protect users from transmitting or getting exposed to specific infectious diseases. On the other hand, N95 respirators are designed to fight against small airborne particles and viruses efficiently.
What are N95 respirators?
In the current pandemic situation, where Coronavirus has infected millions of people including significant deaths there has been an increasing demand in N95 respirators. This has created a shortage in supply, so the FDA has approved the use of China-approved KN95 masks. These offer the same protection as the US-approved N95 respirators.
Surgical mask vs. N95 respirators
A surgical face mask fits loosely and is disposable. It is rectangular-shaped and has elastic bands, which get looped behind the ears to hold in place. There is a nose clip, which can be pinched for proper mask fitting around the nose.
The surgical mask has 3-ply layers –
- Outer – Repels blood, water, and other bodily fluids
- Middle – Filters specific pathogens
- Inner – Absorbs sweat and moisture from exhaled air
Nevertheless, the surgical mask edges don’t tightly seal around the mouth or nose, so small airborne contaminants transmitted through sneezing or coughing cannot get filtered.
The N95 respirators are designed to fit the shape and size of your nose and mouth. As the mask fits snugly the chances of airborne contaminants entering around the mask edges decrease a lot. According to the FDA, the four layers recommendation includes –
- Outer layer – Spun-bond polypropylene
- Second layer – Cellulose or polyester
- Third layer – Melt-blown polypropylene filter
- Inner layer – Spun bound polypropylene
The outer and second layers get anti-virus treatment. The N95 has a nose clip, which allows users to press it on the nose for a perfect fit. Carefully tested and approved respirators carrying N95 compliance can block 95% of small particles [0.3 microns].
How to correctly wear protective face masks?
- Wash hands properly before putting the mask.
- Check for broken loops or tears.
- The colored section of the mask has to be outwards.
- The metallic strip must be on the top to be pressed against your nose bridge.
- The mask can have ear loops, ties or dual plastic bands. Make sure to loop or tie the mask correctly.
- Pinch and press nose clip on with fingers.
- Pull mask bottom over the mouth and chin.
- Ensure it fits snugly.
- Never touch it, once in position.
- Replace mask if it gets damp or soiled.
- While removing the mask ensure caution.
N95 respirators need to be worn correctly to avert COVID-19 or they will be unable to filter airborne viruses that cause illness.
According to the FDA, the best method to reduce the spread of infection includes –
- Practice proper hand hygiene
- Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer
- Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, nose, and face
- Keep minimum 6 feet distance from others
- Stay away from the crowd and public places
- Stay home and be safe
Surgical masks can protect against large airborne pollutants, while N95 offers good protection against small contaminants.