The N95 mask is the most recommended mask by medical professionals. With its capability of filtering airborne particles up to 95%, an N95 mask poses an efficient way of providing protection to anyone who wears this. Other fields like Engineering and Construction trust the N95 mask as well. This is for a fact that an N95 mask is capable of filtering particles like fine sand, sawdust, dust particles, cement, and volatile gases.
With the given protection and convenience, the N95 mask is facing scarcity. The demand for the N95 mask had skyrocketed since the pandemic started. Hospitals are short of N95 mask supplies. Stocks of the N95 mask are running out in stores. N95 mask supplying companies are making ends meet.
The scarcity of N95 masks led some hospitals and people to reuse the said mask. Generally, the N95 mask, like any other medical grade masks, is only good for one-time use. The N95 mask must be properly disposed of after using it. A used N95 mask is already contaminated with bacteria and viruses.
Is it safe to reuse the N95 mask?
In these trying times, the N95 mask can be reused and disinfected. In fact, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a recommended guideline in terms of reusing the N95 mask. In the recommended guideline, the terms ‘Extended’ and ‘Reuse’ are clarified.
Extended refers to wearing the exact N95 mask to multiple patients with the same respiratory condition on a prolonged occasion, without donning or doffing the mask. In fact, medical health workers are doing this method nowadays due to the scarcity of the N95 mask.
Reuse refers to wearing the exact N95 mask for multiple occasions to several patients. Every after an encounter, the N95 mask is doffed (removed) and then donned (to put on) again when encountering the patient. The reuse N95 mask is stored in a container with labels as to how many times the mask is used. The N95 mask can be reused five times. Proper donning and doffing must be observed.
Also, the N95 mask can be reused by observing the following things on the mask:
- The Fit. The N95 mask is capable of creating a tight fit on the area of the nose. If the used N95 mask no longer creates a tight fit, discard the mask. This will potentially lead to leakage and can contaminate the wearer.
- Discoloration. The N95 mask must retain its original color. Any form of discoloration due to fluid contamination on the surface of the N95 mask should lead the mask to its proper disposal.
- Overall condition. There should be no form of tearing on the N95 mask. Any sign of tearing on the mask or even on its straps should lead to the mask to its proper disposal.
Given that a used N95 mask can be reused, common people are tapping into ways on how to sterilize their used mask. These ideas are great especially when people are trying to save every dollar, rather than spending on buying more N95 masks.
What are some of the most effective ways to sterilize N95 masks?
UV Sterilization or UV Disinfection works through the process of decomposition. Strains of bacteria and viruses that are present on the surface of the N95 mask are broken down. Ultraviolet or UV light targets the bacteria or viruses’ DNA or RNA and breaks it down. An N95 mask that is sterilized under a UV light is considered safe to use. Once bacteria and viruses are unable to reproduce or multiply, they are considered dead. This process can go about 60 minutes or so.
Vaporized Hydrogen Peroxide
Using Vaporized Hydrogen Peroxide or VHP to decontaminate the used N95 mask is considered to be the most effective and the most time-efficient. The process goes for about 10 minutes. Liquid Hydrogen Peroxide is vaporized at 120oC. The vapor targets bacteria and viruses inside a chamber, killing every single microorganism present.
Spraying disinfectant spray on the surface of the contaminated N95 mask can eliminate up to 99.9% of bacteria and viruses, including the coronavirus. However, it might endanger the health of the wearer because some disinfectant sprays contain dangerous chemicals. These dangerous chemicals might be the cause of someone’s death and not the virus itself.
Dry Heat Disinfection
Using Dry Heat can help eliminate bacteria and viruses on the surface of the used N95 mask. Heat is absorbed by the N95 mask to ensure that all microorganisms that live on the surface of the mask die. The heat ranges from 160oC to 170oC.
Ethanol is a variety of alcohol that is used as a disinfectant. If the concentration reaches 80%, ethanol is proven to be effective in eliminating microorganisms on the surface of the N95 mask. Ethanol first targets the fat membrane and once the membrane is diffused, the insides are now exposed; making the microorganism easier to eliminate.
These are some of the effective ways to disinfect the used N95 mask. However, it will always be best to replace and dispose of the used N95 mask. This is to avoid further contamination and can generate safety to the wearer. It is a stipulated mandate that people should wear masks but it does not entail any form of repetition. Repeating the mask is only necessary when the time calls for it. It is always best to prioritize safety at all times.