To protect against the coronavirus, the CDC now recommends wearing a face mask in public places like grocery stores and pharmacies. However, with the widespread shortage of medical-grade face masks, people are finding solutions at home that range from ingenious to the truly bizarre.
As entertaining as these masks are, they don’t quite make the cut for healthcare workers and other front-line workers. For our doctors, nurses, cleaners, grocery clerks and many others, it is critical that surgical masks or N-95 respirators are used to provide maximum protection. There are three different groups of face masks that provide different levels of protection:
1. Utility Masks
Starting from the bottom are inexpensive masks made from paper, cotton, tissue or molded plastic. These provide a simple physical barrier and are not designed to provide strong protection from airborne particles or viruses.
2. ASTM Level 1, 2 and 3 Surgical Masks
ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) are medical masks that provide at least a 95% filtration rate. These loose-fitting disposable masks provide 3 layers of protection while being comfortable to wear.
|ASTM Masks||Fluid resistance||Filtration efficiency||Breathability|
|Level 1: low barrier protection||Low 80mmHg||High 95%||Moderate < 4.0 H20/cm2|
|Level 2: moderate barrier protection||Moderate 120mmHg||Very High 98%||Low < 5.0 H20/cm2|
|Level 3: high barrier protection||High 160mmHg||Very High 98%||Low < 5.0 H20/cm2|
3. N95 Face Masks (Respirators)
N95 masks provide the optimal amount of protection for airborne transmission of the coronavirus. These masks are designed to fit closely to the face, with a seal forming around the nose and mouth. N95 respirators can be difficult to wear for long periods of time, with the tight fit making it hot and difficult to breathe in.
Fluid resistance: Moderate 160mmHg
Filtration efficiency: Maximum 99.9%
Breathability: Low < 5.0 mm H20/cm2
Other N95 Respirators available
Usage and Disposal
N95 masks are recommended for usage of up to eight hours. Surgical and utility masks are recommended for up to four hours of use. These usage times should be adhered to carefully. Used masks should be disposed of without touching the outside of the mask with your hands or letting the outside of the mask touch your face.
What’s Right For Me?
While inexpensive paper masks are better than nothing, you cannot rely on them to protect yourself from COVID-19 or any other virus. On the other end of the spectrum, N95 masks provide a lot of protection but they are expensive and make it difficult to breath. Surgical masks at the level of ASTM Level 2 or 3 provide a very good level of protection, comfort and are also affordable.
Don’t Neglect Your Skin Health!
With COVID-19 keeping most of us indoors, many are experiencing a change in skin quality. The lack of sun exposure and increased sleep is great for the complexion. However Vitamin D deficiency and poor “quarantine diets” have also caused a decrease in skin condition for others. How has your skin changed during the coronavirus pandemic? To find out download the Opu Pocket skin clinic app to get a free analysis today.