Everything You Need to Know About N95 Masks
Whether you’re a healthcare facility looking for medical personal protective equipment for your staff or an individual wanting additional protection against new COVID-19 variants, medical N95 masks provide exceptional protection from a variety of contaminants. But there are several brands to choose from and a lot to know about this type of mask that can provide valuable information as you’re shopping for PPE supplies.
What is a N95 Mask?
N95 masks are disposable filtering facepiece respirators (FFR). They filter out 95% of particulates and large droplets that are .3 microns or larger. The N stands for “non-oil,” meaning that if there aren’t any oil-based particulates present, then the mask is effective for the work environment. Other mask ratings are R (resistant to oil for 8 hours) and P (oil proof). These masks are made of an electrostatic non-woven polypropylene fiber, which means that viruses are absorbed on the surface of the mask, preventing the user from inhaling the contaminant.
N95 Mask Brands
There are dozens of manufacturers that produce quality N95 masks. When shopping for PPE supplies that fit your needs, the most important thing to look for may be that they are certified by NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health). Here are few of the most popular brands. Each brand offers several varieties with differences in shape, foldable or non-foldable, valve or no valve, and masks for specific work environments.
Who Needs to Wear Them?
When the pandemic first emerged, the CDC recommended that the general public not wear N95 masks and they should be reserved for healthcare workers. As new COVID-19 variants emerge, and the supply of face masks has steadied, health officials are suggesting and recommending that the general public wears masks that are able to provide additional protection over reusable cloth masks or 3-ply masks.
Healthcare workers should wear quality face masks whenever possible. Workers in the construction industry may also have a need for N95 masks when there is a significant amount of dust, allergens, or harmful contaminants are present. Chemical and industrial industries may also require employees to wear this type of mask. Some potentially hazardous situations when workers should wear a face mask include:
- Compounding antineoplastic drugs
- Administering antineoplastic drugs
- Administering aerosolized antibiotics, pentamidine, or ribavirin
- Handling chemical sterilants or high-level disinfectants
- Proximity to surgical smoke generated by laser or electrosurgical techniques
Should You Get a N95 Mask With a Valve?
The purpose of an exhalation valve is to reduce breathing resistance and the build-up of moisture, helping the wearer feel more comfortable. Before you purchase N95 masks with a valve, it’s important to know a few things about them. While the valve reduces breathing resistance, it allows exhaled air to escape. If the wearer is infected, the exhaled air could enter the space and cause others in the area to become infected. The valve can protect the wearer from breathing in harmful particulates, however. Valved masks do not provide the same level of protection as masks without a valve. When a sterile work environment is required, such as an operating or procedure room, masks with valves should not be used, or the valve should be covered with a surgical mask.
How to Wear an N95 Mask
For N95 masks to function effectively, it needs to be worn properly. The mask should have a snug fit around the nose, the side of the face, and around the chin; there shouldn’t be any openings between the face and the mask. According to the Health Department of NY, the mask should come in contact with smooth skin; even one day’s beard growth has been shown to let air leak in. Both straps should be worn to ensure the mask is held in place and to prevent air from leaking. To ensure the mask is fitted properly, the user can do positive and negative pressure checks, which is when the user breathes sharply in and out to check for any gaps where air can escape from or get inside the mask.
N95 Masks vs. 3-Ply Face Masks
There are several differences between N95 masks and 3-ply surgical face masks:
- Testing and Approval: The FDA regulates and clears surgical masks, and NIOSH evaluates, tests, and approves respirators.
- Use and Purpose: Surgical masks protect from sprays, large droplets, and hazardous fluids. Respirators protect from non-oil aerosol droplets and small particle aerosols.
- Fit and Leakage: Surgical masks have a loose fit around the face, and respirators have a snug fit wherever the mask comes into contact with the skin.
- Filtration: Surgical masks are not considered respiratory protection. Respirators filter out 95% of large and small airborne particles.
What’s the Difference Between N95 Masks and KN95 Masks?
The main difference between these masks is how they are certified. N95 masks must undergo an inspection and certification process by NIOSH, which is part of the CDC. KN95 masks are the Chinese equivalent. There are other equivalents around the world as well, including Europe (FFP2), Australia (P2), Korea (KMOEL), and Japan (DS). KN95 face masks have been approved by the FDA for emergency use in the U.S., but they are not inspected, tested, or certified by any U.S. regulatory agency. Both masks filter out 95% of particles.
Shop at Nationwide Medical Supply For Affordable N95 Masks
Nationwide Medical Supply carries three brands of N95 masks, including Moldex, Makrite 9500 and Makrite 9600, and TruAir. Our team is committed to providing our customers with high-quality PPE supplies for the highest level of protection for their employees and families. We have a reliable supply of N95 masks for healthcare facilities, chemical, industrial, and pharmaceutical industries, as well as for individual and family use. With COVID-19 variants becoming a threat, it is essential that everyone has the necessary protection against harmful viruses and contaminants.
Nationwide Medical Supply has three office locations in Denver, Colorado, Bay Harbor Islands, FL, and Logan, UT. We also have three warehouse locations in Colorado, California, and Florida, allowing us to provide quick and reliable shipping and local pickup. Browse our selection of medical personal protective equipment, and get in touch with our team today with any questions or to place an order.