Whether government-mandated or a personal choice of yours to protect yourself and those around you, everyone is reaching for a face mask to slow the spread of the current pandemic.
But are all masks created equal? The answer is no, The fit, material, and features of face masks will determine a few things including
- Percentage of particles that can be inhaled and exhaled
- Frequency of use/durability
In this article, we’ll explore the efficacy and purpose of a variety of face masks available to you and your family so that you can make informed decisions with confidence.
N95 Face MasksProfessional or medical-grade face masks include N95 respirators, KN95 face masks and surgical masks and are also referred to as PPE-personal protective equipment. N95 face masks are the most effective at preventing and reducing the spread of viruses as it blocks 95 percent of particles and droplets. However, they are limited worldwide and are a necessary part of frontline care providers to have access to this equipment.
KN95 Face Mask
You may seem some masks, labeled as KN95 face masks and these type work the same as N95. it meets the same ISO standard as the n95 mask both filtering up to 95% of particles and create an air tight seal around the face. KN95 masks often use the ear loop method of wearing the respirator whereas the N95 masks use a two head-strap attachments, one that goes around the back of the head under the ears and another that goes on the top over the crown of the head above the ears. It really comes down to personal preference in terms of which one is more comfortable for the wearer as well as the level of safety and protection one feels is necessary given the particular activity being carried out.
Many find the KN95 easier and faster to put on and take off whereas the N95 seems to fit much more snug and with a tighter and firmer fit.
3-Ply Surgical Masks
3-ply surgical masks are created for larger particles and aren’t as protective against a contagious virus due to the air leakage from open side pockets. Surgical masks are loose-fitting and can’t filter aerosol particles. However, a surgical mask can help an asymptomatic individual from spreading a virus as it can prevent the deposit of larger particles from the nose and mouth.
Non-Medical Face Masks
To ensure medical staff is well-equipped to face the virus head-on, many people and small businesses are getting creative and hand-making non-medical face masks. The CDC recommends the use of non-medical face masks when out in public. When shopping for a non-medical face mask look for cotton, layered, or include a filter feature.
Bandanas and handmade masks are usually reusable and washable. They can be more protective than surgical masks but not as effective as N95’s but are most appropriate and comfortable for the general public to use.
Masks aren’t generally reusable unless clearly labeled. Medical-grade masks including respirators and surgical masks are meant for single use. Hand made cloth masks including these are made to be washed and reused.
Scarves, bandanas, and cloths can be worn over the mouth and nose but if they aren’t created for the purpose of a face mask they may not be that effective due to the material and the fit.
Surgical masks, KN95 masks, and other medical-grade gear are disposable and meant for one-time use. Handmade cloth masks are safe for significantly longer use after being washed. There is a nation-wide shortage of disposable masks. As a result, many are reusing them for days and weeks at a time making them less effective in protecting you and others.
How to Wear a Mask
Hand made cloth masks come in a variety fits including behind the ears, tie, and adjustable bands. Masks can feel a little awkward initially but should not feel too restrictive or uncomfortable. You should be able to breathe normally but there shouldn’t be a gap between the edges of the mask and your face.
Safe and Fashionable Masks
The pandemic is alarming and it may be taking you time to get used to seeing everyone wear a face mask. Handcrafted and designed face masks like the cheetah print masks and reusable silk face masks, keep you safe and fashionable. Go for soft, feminine fun patterns, camo, sports teams, superheroes. Whatever makes being safe a better experience for you--go for it.
When to Wear a Face Mask
During uncertain times and the unknown nature of the current pandemic, it’s best to wear a mask every time you step out of your home unless you’re going to an open and secluded area like a nature trail.
More specifically, be sure to wear a mask if you’re:
- Going anywhere people are
- Collecting food/delivery/grocery pick-ups
- Visiting family or friends that are high-risk
- Going to appointments of any kind
Are You Safe?
Masks aren’t the only way to protect yourself and others. As long as you’re wearing one that meets the mentioned standards, you’re contributing to keeping the world safe. Other practices stay healthy including keeping surfaces sterilized, washing your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds (as often as you can throughout that day), and using hand sanitizer regularly.
Additionally, avoiding physical contact (social distancing) i.e. hugging, handshaking, and high-fives. Cough and sneeze into the bend of your arm toward the elbow, and practice enhanced hygiene to help prevent the spread of the novel virus and others.
Stay safe. We’re all in this together.