For the flu or other airborne pandemics, masks and respirators are valuable things to keep handy. Although most individuals are familiar with face masks and respirators, many are not sure what the distinction is between the two. For defense, both are fine, but when does one provide more defense than the other?
In medical situations, regular face masks are useful. Face masks, which can contain viruses and bacteria, are good at stopping body fluids. Face masks appear to fit more loosely against the face and leave a gap between the edge of the mask and the skin. This makes face masks relatively ineffective at blocking smaller particles filled with germs that can easily creep into the open gaps. The nose and mouth are well covered by face masks from larger particles and body fluids. All face masks should be used only once and should never be exchanged.
There are usually 3 layers of disposable surgical masks: a mixture of non-woven cloth and a middle melt-blown material serving as a shield.
Surgical masks are a physical shield that protects the patient from body fluid and blood splashes, as well as shielding others from bacteria or viruses found in mucus and saliva from the user's contamination.
It also serves as a shield and, according to the U.S., removes infected body parts from the mouth and nose. Administration of Workplace and Health Safety (OSHA).
But while surgical masks are a cheaper option, they are not designed to provide a tight seal against the face of the patient. Smaller particles can not be adequately filtered through the layers of the mask and may not be relied entirely on to protect the user from airborne infectious agents.
Respirator masks are somewhat similar to face masks in design, like the N95 Respirator, but are more capable of protecting against small, infected airborne particles. The N95 Respirator Mask design is designed to suit the mask tightly to the face, removing the difference between standard face masks. This mask will protect the consumer from small particles and will also block and filter large particles, like normal face masks, and protect against sprays, and large droplets. In industrial and healthcare settings, N95 respirator masks are also made for use. Any N95 respirator masks are specifically labeled for these uses and are respirator masks approved by NIOSH. There are reusable and disposable versions of N95 respirator masks available. No face masks should be exchanged between individuals as a precaution.
- Masks identified as surgical, laser, insulating, dental, or medical masks can be included.
- They are mostly designed to shield the patient, not the wearer, from the saliva and respiratory secretions of the wearer.
- It can also help shield the wearer from exposure to microorganisms, body fluids, and large air particles, however, it is not tightly fitted and is likely to have considerable internal leakage for particles and organisms.
- They are built to loosely cover the mouth and nose but are not dimensioned for individual fit.
- NIOSH (National Occupational Safety and Health Institute) has not been authorized.
- Surgical N95 masks are designed to reduce the wearer's exposure to airborne biological contaminants, but can not eliminate them. They may not remove the likelihood of injury, illness, or death.
- Over the mouth and nose, form a tight seal.
- Fit-testing is needed and must be calibrated to your face to provide the intended efficacy of filtering 95 percent of particles with a 0.3-micrometer mass median diameter.
- Users are required to comply with, as appropriate, the OSHA Respiratory Protection Standard.
- Have specific use instructions, warnings, and limitations for use in health care environments.
- They have NIOSH certification.
- They are fluid resistant to a certified standard measured against the respirator-directed stream of artificial blood.
Comparison between Surgical N95 Masks and N95 Respirators
Based on their intended use, the FDA has different regulations for surgical masks and N95 respirators.
A surgical mask is not a reusable product that, in the immediate environment, provides a barrier between the nose and mouth of the wearer. These are sometimes referred to as face masks, although as surgical masks, not all face masks are regulated. Note that the edges of the mask are not designed around the nose and mouth to form a seal.
The N95 respirator is a respiratory protective device designed to achieve a very close facial fit and to filter airborne particles very efficiently. Notice that the edges of the respirator are designed around the nose and mouth to form a seal. Surgical N95 Respirators also referred to as N95s, are widely used in the healthcare industry.
- They are tested for resistance to fluids, filtration efficiency (efficiency of particulate filtration and efficiency of bacterial filtration), fire-resistance, and biocompatibility.
- It is not appropriate to share or reuse them.
The CDC suggests that members of the public use clear cloth face cover to slow the spread of the virus while in a public area, as this will protect others who may have the virus and may not know it to pass it on to others. See the CDC Recommendation on the Use of Cloth Face Coverings, particularly in Areas of Significant Community-Based Transmission, for more information.
Avoiding being exposed to this virus is the best way to prevent illness. As a reminder, however, the CDC recommends preventive measures, such as hand washing and maintaining a social distance of at least 6 feet, to prevent the community spread of respiratory diseases.
To protect against respiratory diseases like coronavirus (COVID-19), the CDC does not recommend that the public wearing N95 respirators. Those are essential resources that should continue to be preserved for healthcare professionals and other medical first responders, as suggested by existing CDC guidelines.