The demand for face masks has soared tremendously over the past several months, all because of the COVID-19 pandemic. While some people remain complacent and refuse to wear face masks, most people have realized that face masks are an important part of COVID-19 prevention. Surgical, cloth and N95 masks remain top on the list, with the N95 mask gaining popularity each day.
Advantages of the N95 mask over other types of face masks
An N95 mask has two advantages over surgical masks or plain cloth masks. An N95 mask has more than 95% filtration efficiency and can filter out airborne particles that are released when a person talks, coughs, or sneezes. Wearing an N95 mask is therefore an effective way to protect oneself from SARS-CoV-2.
An N95 mask creates a seal over the mouth and nose, making sure that airborne pathogens do not leak around the mask. Even if some people think that an N95 mask is unnecessary and should be reserved for healthcare workers to use, the air seal created by an N95 mask gives it a clear edge over surgical and cloth masks.
Why is the N95 mask so popular?
The efficiency of the N95 mask in filtering out airborne particles is the main reason for its popularity. The N95 mask has been around for decades and its efficiency tested by healthcare professionals and those working in industrial settings.
Firefighters put on proper personal protective equipment (PPE) before going inside a burning building in order to save others and also to ensure that they go home to their families safely. Healthcare workers make use of the N95 mask to protect themselves from COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases transmitted through airborne particles. The first safety precaution a healthcare worker has to take prior to patient interaction is to put on an N95 mask approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
What to remember when using an N95 mask
The N95 mask is not designed for use by people who have significant facial hair. An N95 mask offers a tight seal around the wearer’s face and this could not be achieved when there is significant facial hair. An N95 mask will not offer 95% filtering efficiency as advertised and could still lead to COVID-19 transmission.
Also, an N95 mask is not a magic pill that automatically protects you from airborne pathogens such as SARS-CoV-2. You have to wash your hand frequently, practice social distancing, and limit interaction with other people when possible.
Can I reuse my N95 mask?
An N95 mask is a single-use PPE and should remain such when possible. A lot of people make the mistake of reusing their N95 masks for several days. This action is dangerous and can lead to COVID-19 being passed on from one person to another.
Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has provided guidance on how healthcare organizations can decontaminate and reuse N95 masks, this method is exclusive to those that have the appropriate equipment. When an N95 mask is disinfected properly, it can be worn safely up to three times. After the third use, an N95 mask is no longer efficient in trapping airborne particles.
Unlike cloth masks that can be washed and reused, an N95 mask is best worn once only. Discard the N95 mask immediately after use. Put the N95 mask in a plastic bag and place it in the trash bin. Wash your hands properly after handing a used N95 mask to prevent contamination.
Where to find N95 masks in Canada
If you don’t mind going outside, you may visit a physical shop that sells N95 masks such as a pharmacy or grocery store. Go through their selection of N95 masks and ask for help when needed.
For those who want to avoid going out to public places and prefer to shop from their homes, check different manufacturers and websites that sell N95 masks online. You can find numerous online shops that carry N95 masks as it is a hot commodity in this time of the pandemic.
When choosing a store, look for one that offers a wide array of NIOSH-certified N95 masks and have received good feedback from previous customers. It is also important to pick a reliable brand that has been tried and tested for years. 3M is one of these brands and is proudly made in the USA.
Of course, you also need to make sure that these N95 masks are genuine. A fake N95 mask may look very similar to a real N95 mask, yet could not provide the same level of protection.
How to spot a fake N95 mask
Be diligent when doing your N95 mask shopping and look for the following signs that the N95 mask is fake:
- You could not find the NIOSH approval stamp on the N95 mask or the stamp is spelled erroneously.
- The N95 mask does not have headbands and instead has ear loops that are not as tight.
- There is no TC approval number on the N95 mask or the headband.
- The package has decorative accessories that are not normally found in genuine N95 masks.
- The manufacturer’s lot number could not be seen on the N95 mask.
A genuine N95 mask can protect you from SARS-CoV-2 and help curb the spread of the virus. So when purchasing N95 masks in a physical store or online shop, always make an informed choice. Your safety greatly depends on it.