There are certain considerations when considering when you need to replace your N95 mask. Now, first, it depends on the activities done while wearing the N95 mask, and then for how long the N95 mask was utilized during such activities.
Ideally, the N95 mask is a single-use disposable face mask type. This is a standard N95 mask policy. However, due to the pandemic and N95 mask shortage in the United States, the N95 mask may be extended in its use.
Tips to Extend N95 Mask Use
The N95 mask has certain parts we must be aware of. For instance, the elastic wraps can get stretched, loose, and then won’t be the right size for the N95 mask wearer, bringing about a great risk of contamination and infections.
A good recourse is to cycle different N95 mask stocks throughout the week. Having at least one N95 mask for every day is ideal. Waiting several days before you reuse the N95 mask will slow down the stretching of the elastic and ensures that its filter efficiency and virus protection is maintained.
Due to the N95 mask scarcity, you may reuse or extend the use of your N95 mask. The ideal period of reuse is every four hours. This is especially important where there is a strong source of infection that will compromise the integrity of the N95 mask.
If the N95 mask wearer is not exposed to a strong source of the flu causing virus, then the N95 mask may be worn until it becomes difficult to breathe through.
If you plan for N95 mask decontamination at home, you may consider an ultraviolet sterilization lamp that can irradiate in 5 minutes. The cycle must be completed for 2-3 cycles before the N95 mask loses its ability to offer protection against the virus. Disinfecting in the oven or using dry heat is also a known N95 mask decontamination method.
Air drying is another way to sterilize the N95 mask for reuse. It is a simple way to reuse N95 masks. Drying kills the virus but would require a minimum period of 48 hours to dry the droplets on the N95 mask.
You may also heat the N95 mask at 70 degrees in the oven for 30 minutes. This kills the virus on the N95 mask. However, there should be no contacting metal or flammable material on the N95 mask that you heat in the oven.
Dry heat in a rice cooker is another N95 mask sterilization method. The N95 mask may be placed in a traditional electric rice cooker with no water. Wait for 3 minutes or until the temperature reaches 164 degrees Celsius.
When to replace the N95 Mask?
In the United States, the healthcare workforce is forced to reuse their n95 masks and n95 respirators for surgical and medical use. There are reusable and disposable face mask types in the USA. The most popular are the 3M N95 masks like 1860, 3M 8210, and 3M 8511.
There is also an N95 mask alternative known as the kn95 masks. Other ways to stay safe include using face shields. This also prolongs the life of the N95 mask. This type of face mask is best for its use in filter efficiency. This antiviral tool can block the flu virus, smoke, and dust.
The N95 mask may be for sale at wholesale or bulk offers online. Kids are not to use an N95 mask. As to the replacement of an N95 mask, keep in mind if it is not damaged or falling apart, the N95 mask may still be in use.
To avoid infections or contaminations, the N95 mask should be removed after exposure, being careful not to touch the surface. The N95 mask may be used for 8 hours of continuous and intermittent use.
How to Properly Remove N95 Mask?
First, wash the hands before you put on the N95 mask. When taking the N95 mask off, do not touch the front or interior side of the N95 mask. Remove the N95 mask by first pulling the bottom strap over the back of the head. Then, remove the top strap of the N95 mask. Follow the next steps for N95 mask disposal and wash your hands.
When to Discard N95 Masks?
It is time to discard an N95 mask after aerosol-generating procedures. The N95 mask which is contaminated with bodily fluids like nasal or respiratory secretions and blood from patients should immediately be discarded.
Also, after coming in close contact with a co-infected patient, then discard the N95 mask. The next thing to know is how to dispose of the N95 mask properly. The following steps should be followed:
To remove the N95 mask, be careful not to touch the inner surface. So just touch the bands of the N95 mask. Then, place it in a plastic or zip lock bag sealed tightly. Then, place the N95 mask in the plastic bag in a waste disposal unit or garbage can. Be sure to wash your hands immediately after N95 mask disposal.
Buying a new N95 mask
Be aware of counterfeit N95 mask products in the market. The N95 mask you buy should be NIOSH approved and CE certified. You can check the website of NIOSH for the list of certified licenses with TC numbers on their N95 mask products.
A telltale sign of a counterfeit N95 mask is the presence of ear loops. The correct N95 mask has headbands that offer a tight fit and good protections against COVID-19 air particulates. Further, it is essential to have access to the package the N95 mask is placed in so you can check the NIOSH approval label.
Counterfeit N95 mask products have no facepiece markings or TC numbers on the headband or the facepiece. Also, a misspelled NIOSH certification means it is a counterfeit N95 mask.