COVID-19 has brought one sanitation and hygiene product to the forefront: masks. Earlier, the use of masks was limited to medical and sanitation personnel, but now, the entire world is bound to wear them in the battle against the pandemic. Many varieties of masks are available in the market. You may often find yourself confused upon the thought of having to buy a mask. Medical masks, cloth mask, N95 respirators, P100 respirators, full-length face shield, etc., the list is exhausting! Right?
You might even wonder what all these mean. Are these all the same? Do they all provide protection against COVID-19? What do these letters ‘N’ or ‘P’ signify? First of all, it is significant to know the difference between a mask and a respirator.
A mask (surgical or comfort) generally gives 3-layer protection to filter out respiratory droplets and relatively larger pollutants, like dirt, dust, and smoke. A respirator, on the other hand, acts as an air purifier. It is ideal for filtering even minute particulate matter, such as PM2.5, which is about one-tenth of the size of a human hair. A respirator is made to completely fit over the face not to allow tiny particles to pass through it.
Respirators are rated according to their resistivity and filtration efficiency. The respirators are assessed in the following manner according to their resistance to oil-based pollutants:
‘N’ denotes that the mask is not resistant to oil-based pollutants.
‘R’ denotes that the mask is resistant to oil-based pollutants.
‘P’ denotes that the mask is oil-proof.
Some popular respirators are as follows:
N95: It is one of the most widely acclaimed masks nowadays. As already established, it is non-resistant to oil-based pollutants and filters 95% of the air pollutants (PM2.5). N95 respirators have air valves that provide a distinct passage to let out the exhaled air. These are reusable and washable that makes them durable. However, the filter is not replaceable.
N99 and N100: These respirators have a filtering efficiency of 99%-99.7%. Like N-95 counterparts, they cannot filter oil-based air pollutants. Such masks are relatively harder to find and can be acquired directly from the supplier. These are washable and reusable.
P95 and R95: These provide complete and partial resistance from oil-based pollutants, respectively. 95 signifies that the masks can filter 95% of the air pollutants. Both of these are expensive than the other masks available in the market.
Yes, certainly. The mode of transmission of COVID-19 is via infected respiratory droplets. The virus is so tiny that it settles on the water droplets of the cough or sneeze of an infected person. These can stay suspended in the air and travel farther distances. Thus, increasing the risk for people around them.
Respirators cover the mouth and nose of the user to reduce their susceptibility to contract the virus. Nowadays, scientists are speculating the possibility of coronavirus having spread via airborne particles. Thus, respirators would be an apt choice because they are ideal even to filter PM2.5 if this theory is eventually accepted.
Absolutely! Respirators are tailor-made to protect you from air pollutants. Provided that they are the right fit for your face, they can effectively filter particles that are one-tenth of the size of a single strand of human hair. Also, basic mask-hygiene needs to be followed.
How should I wear a mask?
Maintaining a proper mask-hygiene is equally vital to ensure that you are immune from the virus. Not wearing a mask in the right manner is as bad as not wearing it at all. It makes you vulnerable and increases your chances of contracting the virus.
You should keep the following points in mind while wearing a mask: