Combined with the necessary preventive steps, including physical distancing, complete vaccination and frequent handwashing, wearing a suitable facemask can help slow the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. As the healthcare industry clambers to reduce the spread of the Omicron variant, many experts recommend switching from using surgical masks, face masks or cloth masks to N95 and KN95 respirators. They say that respirators like N95 masks provide the highest level of protection.
What makes N95 respirator masks different from the rest? Can they really help reduce the spread of the virus? Let’s find out.
Understanding various types of masks
Medical masks, otherwise known as surgical masks, are loose-fitting masks readily disposable after use. Their primary design is to add a layer of protection to the wearer when in contact with sprays and droplets that may be infected.
To ensure that your medical masks are more form-fitting, you can use ear loops to help tuck the strings under the edges. Not only will it help tighten the mask, but it’ll also help protect your ears from irritation.
This type of mask consists of filtering materials, not layers. In the US, a filter that can capture at least 95% of small particles at a high flow rate meets the N95 standard, which is the same as Europe’s FFP2. In Australia, a respirator should satisfy the TGA standards.
When worn, cloth masks can trap respiratory droplets released whenever the wearer coughs, talks or sneezes. They also shield the wearer from inhaling droplets from others.
When planning to wear a cloth mask, it’s highly advisable to use one with multiple layers of tightly-woven fabric to create more filtration. Also, if you’re planning to use a gaiter, it’s best to use at least two layers of cloth mask for protection.
What sets N95 respirators apart?
Although wearing any mask is better than wearing nothing, not all masks are equal. An N95 respirator mask can sift 95% of the air particles when worn correctly. The air goes through the synthetic material of thin fibres charged with electrostatic energy.
There are a few N95 masks that have valves that make it easier for the wearer to breathe through. However, having valves only exposes the wearer to unfiltered air. That’s why many establishments ban these kinds of masks on their sites.
Getting the most out of your mask
There are ways to improve your mask’s effectiveness to ensure that you’re getting the most out of it. One way is to ensure that you wear it correctly. Keep the mask snug over your mouth, chin and nose to prevent any gaps. The wearer should feel warm air passing through the mask’s posterior when breathing. Another way to use your mask to its full potential is by choosing masks with bendable nose strips because this feature prevents the air from leaking out.
Remember that masks need to have various layers of protection to keep you safe. So, if you’re using a cloth mask, it’s best to wear a medical mask underneath for added security. You should also ensure that the cloth mask presses the medical mask’s edges against your face and that it shouldn’t hinder your breathing or affect your vision.
Furthermore, you need to ensure that you properly store and clean the mask before putting it back in the drawer. Here are a few tips that you can do when putting on and taking off your respirator:
- Sanitise your hands before and after using your mask.
- Ensure that your mask securely covers your nose, mouth and chin.
- Use ear loops to tie your mask behind your head.
- Never attempt to touch your mask while it’s on your face.
- Sanitise your hands if you accidentally touch your mask
- Please get rid of the mask once it becomes wet or soiled.
- Wash or sanitise your hand after taking the mask off.
Protect yourself from COVID-19
Use a mask
Everyone, especially those who aren’t vaccinated yet, should always wear a mask, particularly in indoor public spaces. When you’re in an area with high cases, it’s best to wear a mask even when you’re outdoors. Those fully vaccinated should also wear a mask to prevent possibly spreading the virus to others.
Practice social distancing
When you’re inside your house, avoid close contact with those who show any symptoms of COVID-19. Also, try your best to keep at least a 6-feet distance between the sick person and other household members. Meanwhile, always remember to keep your distance from other people to avoid getting sick when you’re outside the house.
Avoid crowded places
If there’s no need to go out in crowded areas, then you shouldn’t do so. Going to poorly ventilated rooms or crowded spaces only increases your chances of getting sick. Additionally, consider opening the windows to promote proper air circulation if you’re indoors.
Once you experience any symptoms of COVID-19, getting yourself tested can give you accurate information about any potential risk of you spreading the virus. There are various tests available in the market today. But regardless of what you choose, getting a positive result means that you need to isolate yourself from the rest of your family members. It’s also best to let your close contacts know about the results.
Get yourself vaccinated
One of the best ways to protect yourself from the virus is by getting vaccinated. Only use authorised COVID-19 vaccines to ensure that you get the proper protection that you need. Once you’re fully vaccinated, you may start doing a few of the things that you abruptly stopped because of the pandemic.
The bottom line
Going to poorly ventilated spaces puts you at a high risk of acquiring the virus. That’s why getting yourself protected from potential risk is essential these days. Even if you’re fully vaccinated, wearing the proper masks guarantees that you’ll have minimal chances of being infected. Continue wearing your mask indoors and outdoors, especially when you’re in crowded areas.