The Omicron coronavirus, a highly infectious variant of coronavirus, is staring us in our faces. We have two options: Stay indoors or go masked. Not any mask will work. The coronavirus can’t be blocked by any mask, handkerchief, or silk mask. An N95 or KN95 non-woven mask is the best way to block it. It should be topped with a second layer. Here is some information about this important accessory if you have to go out immediately.
What is an N95 respirator, you ask?
An N95 respirator protects your nose from harmful particles by effectively filtering them out. The device’s edges have a seal that can be adjusted to fit snugly around the nose. This prevents air from escaping. The N95 mask’s filters trap particulate matter, bacteria, and viruses. The multilayered polypropylene fiber walls remove 95 percent of the 0.3-micron particles in the air through this process. The ’95’ is for non-oil, which refers to the mask’s ability to filter particles that are not oil-based.
Where and when should it be worn?
Consider wearing an N95 mask with no valves if you are in a closed environment such as hospitals or crowded areas. The Ministry of Health & Family Welfare in India warns against using N95 masks that have breathing valves. The exhalation of air from breathing valves can cause infection in those around you. These respirators can be worn in public places like parks and malls, where exhaled particles can quickly disperse.
What is the difference between a cloth, surgical, or KN95 mask using N95?
- Cloth masks provide very limited protection against the coronavirus.
- The surgical masks are similar to those used by medical personnel and are made to protect the wearer against liquid splashes and large-particle drops. Their material and design are not effective against small particles such as the coronavirus. This virus is transmitted through breathing, coughing, or sneezing. They also don’t block the air you exhale. A surgical mask alone could expose you to the risk of being exposed.
- The KN95 mask in USA is often mislabeled as the N95. However, the difference lies in their country certification. The US-based National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health approves N95. KN95 is a Chinese certification. The European certification is FFP2. They all offer similar protection against coronavirus.
- Experts recommend double-masking because none of these masks provide 100% protection. A snug-fitting N95 mask or equivalent should be worn first. Then, a three-layered surgical mask should be used on top.
Is it possible to fake an N95 mask?
Original N95 respirators will always have a NIOSH approval marking. NIOSH is a federal agency based in the United States. An KN95 mask that has been certified by NIOSH is the only one worldwide. Other models with similar efficiency are called FFP2 in Europe, and other versions in different countries. If:
- The headband or filtering does not have a verifiable approval number.
- NIOSH markings do not exist.
- NIOSH is incorrectly spelled.
- The mask is made from decorative fabric or other elements.
- It bears markings that claim it is approved for children (NIOSH doesn’t approve respiratory protection for children).
- Filtering face pieces have ear loops and not headbands.
Do you know how to wear it?
Before you put on your mask, make sure to read the instructions. You can wear the N95 respirator by attaching the straps around your head. You should adjust the seal around the mask to ensure it fits tightly over your nose. The mask should completely cover your nose and mouth.
What are the precautions you should take before wearing an N95/KN95?
- It can be difficult to breathe in an N95 respirator. This is why patients suffering from heart or lung disease should be cautious about its use.
- If the respirator is dirty or damaged, don’t wear it.
- To get the best fit, avoid wearing the mask with facial hair.
- Children who are not being closely supervised should not use N95 respirators.
Your Guide to Masks
Anyone 2 years old or older who has not been fully vaccinated must wear a mask indoors. Outdoor settings are not required to have a mask. Consider wearing a mask outdoors in areas where there are high COVID-19 counts.
Even if you have been fully vaccinated, people with weakened immune systems or who are currently taking medication may not be fully protected. They should still follow all recommendations for vaccinated persons, such as wearing a well-fitted mask until they are advised otherwise by their healthcare provider.
To maximize your protection and prevent the spread of COVID-19, vaccinated individuals should wear masks indoors if they are near areas where there is the high or substantial transmission.
A mask must be worn over the nose and mouth when traveling by plane, bus, train, or other public transport within the United States. It is also required indoors at U.S. transportation hubs like airports and train stations. Outdoor areas are not permitted for travelers to use a mask, such as on the open decks of a ferry or the top deck of buses.