In December of last year, a new species of coronavirus was discovered after the first case of infection and illness was reported in China. Now, close to one year later, the virus has spread all over the world, including the United States, leading to a pandemic. The potentially deadly virus has taken many lives throughout the last several months, and lots of things changed in our lives.
With the pandemic, new words began to be used that were previously only known by medical professionals in healthcare settings. Between N95 masks and KN95 masks, ventilators and respirators, and surgical and cloth masks, people have been confused with so many new terms thrown at them. These are supplies and equipment that have been crucial to face this health emergency, but the majority of the people don’t understand many of the terms.
Sadly, ventilators have been a central part of the pandemic all over the world and in the USA, but N95 masks have also been widely named over the last months. In this article, we’ll explain what both of these items are, and what the difference between them is (spoiler: they’re two completely different things).
What is an N95 respirator?
N95 respirators, also known as N95 masks, are considered at the moment the best disposable face mask for virus protection available. They offer antiviral properties that are higher than those in surgical or medical masks and reusable fabric masks. They can be worn with face shields, and some of the most popular models include 3M N95 masks, like the 3M 8511 or 3M 8210.
The name of this respirator comes from the classification established by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the federal agency in charge of making recommendations, based on scientific research, to prevent work-related illnesses or injuries. They’re a part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and to reach their goal, they test respirators to certify they meet the requirements for each type inside their classification.
Respirators are important in certain work environments where respiratory hazards, particles that can be harmful to the airways and the body’s general health when inhaled chronically or acutely, are present. Respirators are masks or mask-like devices with filter material inside of them, which filters the air that is being inhaled by the wearer, preventing dangerous particles from entering their airways.
According to the NIOSH classification, N95 respirators are any respirator with no resistance to oil, and with a percentage of minimum particulate filtration efficacy of at least 95%. This means these masks are effective and used for protection against non-oil based airborne particles, including viruses like the flu or the new coronavirus, dust, and smoke, among others.
For this reason, these face masks have been prioritized for healthcare workers and other workers on the frontlines of the pandemic. All N95 masks need to be approved by NIOSH to certify they meet the requirements to be called N95. For their use in medical settings, they need additional approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as well.
What is a ventilator?
The word ‘ventilator’ is one you might have heard or read frequently on the news or online, leaving you a bit confused as to what people are talking about. These are machines that help patients breathe when they can’t do it by themselves. Other names used to refer to ventilators by medical professionals include ‘mechanical ventilators’, ‘breathing machine’, or ‘life support’.
Our lungs are the organs with the job to effectively inhale and exhale air, this way our body gets the oxygen needed by our cells to perform a process called respiration, in which they use oxygen to produce energy. The waste product of this process is carbon dioxide, which can be toxic inside the body at certain levels, and is eliminated by the lungs during exhalation.
Some diseases, like COVID-19, produce severe damage to the lungs which leaves them functioning in a less than effective way. In these situations, the body isn’t getting the oxygen it needs to work properly, and carbon dioxide is accumulating, leading to more severe complications. In these patients, a ventilator is used to help pump oxygen into the lungs mechanically. The air with oxygen flows through a tube that is inserted directly into the airways. If the patient can’t exhale on their own either, the machine can also be programmed to do it for them, preventing carbon dioxide from reaching toxic levels.
The process of placing the tube into the lungs is called ‘intubation’, and it can be done via a tracheostomy (an endotracheal tube), or it can be inserted through the mouth. The tube is attached to the ventilator, and the medical professionals need to administer the patient with pain and sedation medication, to maintain a level of comfort and wakefulness, and to prevent the patient from fighting off the tube.
In simpler terms, ventilators are machines that breathe for a patient when they can’t do it on their own. This can be due to many different reasons, be it COVID-19, traumatic injuries, pneumonia, or any other cause for not breathing properly. They’ve been on the news a lot because they’ve been necessary equipment for the most severe cases of coronavirus where the patient has developed a condition known as acute respiratory distress syndrome. In this condition, the levels of oxygen are too low for the patient to be alive without a ventilator.
So, you can conclude for yourself after reading the definition of both items that they’re completely different from one another. Respirators are masks used to filter the air we breathe and to prevent certain illnesses, and ventilators are machines used to breathe for a patient that can’t do it on their own when they have a very severe lung injury or other condition that prevents them from breathing properly.
Everyone, including kids with a face mask in a smaller size, needs to keep themselves protected in public. You can find many options available for sale to buy in bulk or wholesale.