N95 masks are a hot item right now, given the number of experts recommending them as offering superior protection against omicron. And while many public health and epidemiology experts have been advocating for people to wear respirator masks for some time, it was only recently that Centers for Disaster Control and Prevention (CDC) Updated Its Mask Guidelines: The agency finally updated the page last week to say that these respirators are the preferred choice (and they’re not in short supply, as they are). were earlier in the pandemic).
« Although all masks and respirators provide some level of protection, properly fitted respirators provide the highest level of protection, » the CDC writes. « A respirator has better filtration, and if worn correctly throughout use, can provide a higher level of protection than a cloth or procedure mask.
Given the CDC’s emphasis on proper fit, you’ll be glad to know that the agency has also released more information for the public on choosing the best N95 and KN95 masks, along with practical recommendations for improving the fit of their masks. Here are some of the best tips.
Advice for N95 and KN95 respirator masks
1. Make sure you have the real thing.
First and foremost, the genuine N95 and KN95 will fit and perform better. There have been issues with the distribution of counterfeit masks to consumers and even hospitals, as SELF reported. the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the body that certifies respirators, provides a wealth of useful consumer information here, as SELF reported. NIOSH has a list of N95 manufacturers approved, a list of counterfeit masks, ways to verify it’s a genuine N95 (like looking for the « NIOSH » stamp and an approval TC number), and distinguishing marks of counterfeits (like faulty spelling or a lack of marking). You can read more about choosing respirators and where to buy them here.
2. Find the right mask.
« It’s important to choose a respirator that fits your face and seals well, because not all fit the same way, » said the CDC points out. If you’ve used a respirator mask that fits you well (think: no space) before, NIOSH recommends that you try to find masks of the same brand, model and size if possible. And if not, you may need to test a few different products to find the best match.
3. Make sure nothing gets in your way.
NIOSH advises being aware of facial hair, hair, eyewear, and jewelry that could potentially interfere with the placement and fit of your respirator. (That might mean tying your hair back, trimming your beard, putting your glasses on after the mask, and avoiding bulky earrings or nose piercings, for example.) Facial hair in particular can create hair holes. air with the respirators, the CDC Remarks.
4. Follow the instructions.
This is a set of instructions that you don’t want to throw away immediately! Following the step-by-step manufacturer’s recommendations that came with your mask will help you know how to use the product correctly. And if you threw away the instructions, the CDC has published manufacturer’s instructions for many NIOSH-approved devices.
5. Put it on correctly.
Although you want to follow the instructions that come with your particular mask, here’s the general idea: Start by placing the respirator over your chin and nose. Next, pull the top strap over your head and place it high on the back of your head, and tie the bottom strap (assuming it has two straps) around your neck, below your ears. Finally, if your mask has a metal nose clip, press it down with your fingers to mold it around the sides of your nose. look at this graphic guide and video from NIOSH to guide you through putting on and checking the fit of your respirator.
6. Check the seal.
This is the key: respirators must form a tight seal to the face to function properly, the CDC Explain. Authentic N95 masks are so named because they filter at least 95% of air particles—when properly adjusted.
NIOSH contains tips for checking the seal of your respirator (as well as useful information graphic). First, place both hands on the middle area of the respirator and inhale quickly. The respirator should seal the face tightly when you do this. Then place both hands on the respirator, including along the sides, and exhale to feel for air leaks with your hands. If the leak is around the nose area, you can readjust the nosepiece so that it is more flush with your face. If the leak is at the edges, adjust the straps to close the gap and recheck the seal. Repeat if necessary.
Tips for surgical and cloth masks
Respirators provide superior protection. But any mask is better than no mask — and while surgical or cloth (preferably multi-layered) masks are all you currently have access to, there are still ways to improve their fit. The goal is always to achieve a secure fit by minimizing gaps in coverage that air particles can infiltrate or exit.
1. Inhale and exhale to check the fit.
The CDC recommends checking for gaps by placing your hands around the outer edges of the mask, paying particular attention to any airflow under your eyes or on the sides of the doom. You can test the safety of your mask by taking a few breaths. If, during an inhale, you feel warm air entering through the front of the mask – and potentially observe the mask being sucked in and pushed out a little with each breath – this is an indicator of a good fit, according to CDC.
2. Use a mask adjuster or splint.
Another way to improve fit is to use a mask adjuster or splint, which goes over a disposable or cloth mask to minimize gaps around the edges.
3. Adjust the nose
For disposable masks, the CDC says to try using those that have a nose wire, a bendable strip of metal along the top. You can shape the wire over your nose to create a tighter fit in that area.
4. Double mask.
And, of course, there’s the good old double-masking technique of wearing a tight-fitting cloth mask over a disposable mask. (Don’t bother with two surgical masks, though, according to the CDC, that won’t improve the fit.)