CDC’s guidelines on N95 mask fitting

N95 respirators are considered an essential component of personal protective equipment (PPE) due to their highly efficient filtration ability. Since a PPE’s main motive is to protect the user from coming in contact with any sort of harm or injury, the N95 respirator, which happens to be a particulate filtration face-piece provides safety to users by serving as an obstacle that prevents harmful particulates from entering the user’s body through nose or mouth. Due to this reason, N95s are religiously used in construction sites, during wildfires, and also in the medical sector.

This face-piece offers 95% protection against all airborne particulates comprising bacterial droplets, fluids, gases, pollutants, and vapors. The feature which sets ‘N95’ apart from other face masks like surgical or cloth mask is the respirator’s seal fit. The N95 is further approved by NIOSH and recommended by the CDC for healthcare and construction workers. The CDC, known as the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, is a subsidiary of the US federal agency under the health and human services department, the focal point of this department is to protect public health and the environment and to prevent the spread of various diseases.

Role of CDC during the pandemic

The onset of the coronavirus pandemic provided a gateway to public chaos and frenzy which inspired everyone to either hoard PPE, particularly the N95, or to either search for one in feverish haste. What people knew about this mask was that it could help prevent the spread of the virus and this bit of information was reason enough to prompt them to buy it. But regardless of how competent an N95 is, it is not recommended for everyone. In-fact during the pandemic, all the concerned authorities unanimously agreed that N95s should be preserved for healthcare workers alone because of the product’s scarcity.

Apart from this, there are certain guidelines devised by the CDC that ensures safe and efficient usage of an N95. These guidelines include pointers and proper commentary on how to properly wear a mask, achieve a sealed fit, dispose of the mask, and certain precautions as well. Achieving a sealed fit in an N95 mask is indubitably the most essential part of donning this mask. If one is unable to achieve a sealed fit, it ruins the whole purpose of wearing this mask. With that being said, achieving a sealed fit isn’t exactly the easiest task of all.

Achieving a sealed fit in an N95 respirator

To ensure a sealed fit, CDC requires the user to go through a sealed fit test to determine the right size, model, and style of the respirator before buying it. In addition to this, OSHA has also directed healthcare and construction workers to adhere to an annual fit test that ensures that the respirator being used by them is appropriate. The N95s require a fit test each time they are donned and factors like facial hair maybe will prevent a user from achieving a sealed fit.

Furthermore, people who have claustrophobia or suffer from any cardiac or respiratory illnesses should not wear N95 masks. The CDC has also given proper instructions on how to don a mask and they are as follows:

  • Hold the respirator in your hands with the nose being in your fingertips.
  • Cup the respirator in your palms gently with the headbands hanging below and then simply place the respirator at the inside of your chin with the nosepiece in place.
  • There are two straps of which the top one is supposed to go around the head and stay at the top on the backside of the head while the strap at the bottom is supposed to stay at the back of one’s neck and below the ears.
  • The last step is to adjust the nose metal clip present in the mask according to one’s size and that is to be done by pressing the nose clip from both sides.

How to check if you have achieved a sealed fit?

After a user has donned the mask, they must ensure whether they have successfully achieved a sealed fit or not. As per the CDC, the way of verifying it is to place both hands on the respirator, hold your breath in, and then evaluate whether the respirator tightly sticks to the face. After that, release your breath while still placing the hands on the respirator and if the user feels a leakage then a seal has not been achieved. If the user feels leakage around the nose area, then the nosepiece needs to be adjusted.

Or if leakage is felt around the edges then adjust then the straps are to be adjusted. Even after re-adjusting the places at which the leakage was felt if a sealed fit is still not achieved then the particular size or model of the mask one is trying out must be not appropriate for them.

Conclusion

The guidelines issued by the CDC regarding the proper usage of N95 respirators is necessary to be able to utilize the mask properly. The seal fit, which for most people is a very hard thing to master, requires one to thoroughly go over the guidelines CDC has issued in this regard. The guidelines will make the process easier and also save a user’s time. Apart from this, the CDC has also issued proper instructions on how to dispose of a mask properly that are also equally helpful.

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