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The Standards for Different Types of Face Masks

The World Health Organization announced that there is a shortage in the production and supply of surgical face masks and other PPEs (personal protective equipment). A pioneer and large brand of medical products, Kolmi-Hopen, has been requested to produce 500 million surgical masks and respirators. Other companies such as Foxconn are also reported to produce 20 million of surgical face masks to meet the demands of the world’s need for masks. But, what type of masks can protect you from COVID-19? Continue reading this article for you to find out.

What are the two different types of masks?

Ever since the pandemic started, people are rushing to the different pharmaceuticals to get their surgical face mask. But questions are “What are the two types of masks?” and “What masks are highly preventive against the coronavirus?”

Before using a medical face mask, you must know its types. It is how you know if the face mask is right for you. There are appropriate face masks that are used by an infected individual while there are also some that are used by a non-infected individual. If you want to know what they are, here are the two types of masks:

  1. Surgical mask - A surgical mask is the most common type of mask used and worn by the public. This is disposable and is usually used for 3-4 hours only. It is advised that when the surgical mask is damp, it should be replaced with a new one to avoid further contagion.
  • Surgical masks are worn by sick people, especially those who show signs and symptoms of COVID-19 such as fever and cough. The purpose is to avoid the spread of the infection. Since the surgical mask is waterproof, it also protects from unnecessary splashes of body fluids such as blood and vomits. These splashes can be a source of contamination which is avoided with the help of the surgical mask.
  • Surgical masks are worn by caregivers who are in close contact with the COVID-19 patients or any patients who are sick and contaminated with diseases. The purpose is to avoid being infected by the patient that they are taking care of.

A surgical face mask serves as a protection from a possible contagion from an infected person. However, a surgical mask cannot protect you against any airborne viruses and other infectious agents. In other words, it will not be an assurance that you are protected from coronavirus.

  1. Respirator - N95, N99, and P95 are good and common examples of respirators. A respirator is another common type of PPE or personal protective equipment which allows the wearer to inhale healthy air and blocks the unhealthy ones such as smoke, specks of dust, vapors, chemicals, and hazardous gases.
  • Respirators are worn by medical experts. These are not advised and are not available for public uses. Mostly, front-liners such as nurses and doctors and those who are in close contact with infected people.
  • Respirators are worn by people who work in specific industries. Since respirators are protective of any aerosols, chemicals, and smoke, respirators are specifically worn by people who are exposed to these substances. A few of them are firefighters, pharmaceutical clerks or pharmacists, and those who work in hazardous industries.

Respirators, unlike surgical face masks, can protect the wearer from any forms of airborne particles that may be a source of infection from viruses such as coronavirus.

What are the standards of surgical face masks and respirators?

In Europe, they follow the European standard EN 149:2001. This standard includes:

  1. FFP1 - this has the least filtration ability of only 80%. It only filters basic specks of dust and particles that is why this is the standard used in home renovations and other simple housework.
  1. FFP2 - this has a filtration level of 94%. This is the standard of face mask used by medical people who are in close contact with patients who are infected with diseases.
  1. FFP3 - this is the highest level of standard for the face mask. It can filter as much as 99% of airborne particles even the finest ones such as asbestos.

The United States, on the other hand, has to follow the Nat’l Institute for Occupational Safety and Health or known as the NIOSH. This standard measures the level of oil resistance among respirators. These are:

  1. Class N - “N” stands for No Oil Resistance. Good examples of this class are N95, N99, and N100. The numbers of those respirators represent their filtration levels.
  1. Class R - “R” stands for Resistance. This means that the respirators are resistant to oil for up to 8 hours. Examples of this class are R95, R99, and R100. Again, the number after each of the letters represent their filtration levels.
  1. Class P - This is the highest class and is completely and 100% oil-resistant. Good examples of this are P95, P99, and P100. This class, being the highest, are also the most expensive one.

Which Masks Protect Against Coronavirus?

Surgical masks are not your sure protection against the coronavirus. It is highly advised that a surgical mask is used by a patient who has been diagnosed with any infectious disease to avoid the spread of the infection.

In European countries, medical experts and those who are in close contact with COVID-19 patients have to wear protective gear of at least FFP2 and FFP3 to avoid getting infected with the diseases.

In the United States, caregivers and medical experts are also advised to make use of protective gears of classes N, R, and if possible, P.

With today’s coronavirus outbreak, you must know the standards of how surgical masks and respirators are based on. Remember that, more than the face mask that you wear, it is by knowing the standards and getting properly informed and educated that you get to protect yourself from the coronavirus.