What protocols should be followed when reusing N95 masks?

The N95 respirators have proven their significance in 2020. Nobody knew how essential the N95 respirators could be until the novel coronavirus broke out. The N95 respirators have saved lives in 2020, be it wildfires or lethal pandemics. The N95 respirator is the safest respiratory protective device to combat the novel coronavirus. No mask even comes close to how effective it is. The N95 respirator has become an integral part of our lives since the pandemic has begun.

There is a massive demand for this product in the market because of its effectiveness. A plethora of other features is an addition as to why this product is indispensable for the public. Unfortunately, scarcity has occurred as a result of the massive demand for the N95 respirators. People have started buying the N95 respirator because of its effectiveness, where some people have put it in stock at their homes. Some people had purchased the N95 respirator way before the novel coronavirus came.

The whole situation is terrifying. Healthcare professionals are included in those people as well, who are concerned with the immense scarcity of the N95 respirators. Healthcare professionals must wear a respirator or other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to treat infected patients. The healthcare professionals could get infected if they do not wear the N95 respirator or other related PPE. Therefore, the usage of PPE has become crucial for healthcare professionals. 

Because of the shortage, people have started reusing the N95 respirator. It is the only option now! The same goes for healthcare professionals. They are reusing the N95 respirators as well. However, some people do not know how to reuse the N95 respirator. The N95 respirator must be decontaminated before reusing the N95 respirator. Decontamination means cleaning the bacteria off a respirator or eliminating bacteria off the respirator. 

There are several ways to decontaminate an N95 respirator. Some decontamination methods are easy to do while some of them require heavy equipment that is present in large healthcare facilities. All of these decontamination methods are legit, and they can be used to clean your N95 respirator. The N95 respirator absorbs a plethora of harmful airborne particles while being used. Therefore, decontamination cleans all of this dirt, filth, and bacteria.


A decontaminated N95 respirator is not as effective as a new N95 respirator. However, it is effective at the filtration of injurious airborne particles of the novel coronavirus. The N95 respirator is a particulate filter that keeps the wearer safe from inhaling injurious airborne particles. The word N95 means that the N95 respirator is 95 percent effective at filtering out airborne particles of different sizes. In addition to that, the N95 respirator is effective at restricting the spread of this fatal virus. 

The N95 respirator prevents the spread of this fatal viral infection, which is the novel coronavirus. The N95 respirator is comparatively more effective at keeping an individual safe from foreign airborne particles than other respirators. The N95 respirator can protect from several diseases and infections like the novel coronavirus, the influenza virus, and the swine flu, etc. Following are some decontamination methods to clean the bacteria off the N95 respirator. 

Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation

A 2009 study showed that UV light is a good decontamination method for sterilizing the N95 respirator. In this study, a decontaminated N95 respirator was exposed to ultraviolet light for thirty minutes. It showed to be an effective decontamination method for the decontamination of N95 respirators. In April 2020, A recent study also showed us that the N95 respirator was an effective decontamination method. The downside of using this decontamination method is that it requires complex equipment. Moreover, it is a time-consuming decontamination method.

Steam treatment

Steam treatment is an effective way for decontaminating an N95 respirator. A study was conducted in 2012 to determine the effectiveness of this decontamination method. An N95 respirator was decontaminated with the H5N1 influenza virus by the researchers. Microwave or oven’s steam was exposed to the contaminated N95 respirator. In a few minutes, the N95 respirators would decontaminate. Therefore, steam treatment was an effective decontamination method. 

Dry heat treatment

Dry heat treatment is another vital decontamination method for the N95 respirator. Stanford researchers conducted a study where they proved dry heat to be effective for decontaminating an N95 respirator. At the temperature of 70°C, the N95 respirator was exposed to dry oven heating for thirty minutes. Hence, dry heat treatment is another effective sterilization method.

Time decontamination

There are more than fifty percent of healthcare facilities in the United States that lack the resources for sterilizing an N95 respirator. Time decontamination could be an effective method for them. After using the N95 respirator, the contaminated N95 respirator is stored in a paper bag. The CDC has recommended to not reuse the N95 respirator for five days for time decontamination. Therefore, time decontamination could be an alternative for those healthcare facilities with a lack of medical equipment.

Conclusion

The sterilized N95 respirator is not as effective as a new N95 respirator. However — it is effective in combating the novel coronavirus. There are several ways to decontaminate an N95 respirator. If you have heavy and complex equipment, ultraviolet germicidal irradiation could be a great method for you. However, if you do not have complex equipment for decontaminating an N95 respirator, dry heat or steam treatment could be a good sterilization method for you.

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