We all wish that the persistent need for masks was well behind us. The reality is, protecting one another from COVID-19 and other illnesses will never go out of style. In many parts of Asia, it has always been the norm to wear a face mask when feeling ill. It helps to prevent the unnecessary spread of colds and cases of flu. Finding a comfortable mask that works is as important as ever. But how do you choose the right one?
You have probably seen a variety of different masks. Disposable, fabric, surgical, N95, nylon, triple-layer, filtered. The list goes on and on. This is our how-to guide on choosing masks that work for you, your family and your unique needs.
Fabric face masks come in a variety of styles and layer options. These environmentally friendly masks are great for outdoors or layering over a surgical mask for extra protection. They feel good against the skin and come in lots of fashionable colours and patterns. Make sure you look for triple-layer masks and opt for cotton for the best fit and comfort. Washing these masks after every wear is important to their efficacy and keeping your distance from others—especially those not wearing masks—is key. Cloth masks are great at protecting others from you but aren’t 100 per cent effective at ensuring your safety.
Surgical masks are disposable protective masks that you can find (nearly) everywhere. A well-fitting, high-quality surgical mask is effective at filtering respiratory droplets that spread disease. These masks come in three levels of protection, three being the strongest and most effective for preventing COVID-19. Surgical masks have at least three layers of protection and work best when the mask fits snugly on the face. You may need to tie the ear loops to achieve a perfect fit.
N95, KN95 and KF94
N95, KF94 and KN95 masks offer the ultimate protection. These respirator-style masks have four or five layers and the KN95 and N95 masks filter out at least 95 per cent of the tiniest (0.3 microns) airborne particles. KF94 masks filter out 94 per cent.
N95 masks meet American standards, KN95 are the Chinese standard equivalent and KF94 are from Korea. KF stands for “Korean filter”. The most important part of making the most of your respirator mask is making sure it fits well. If there are gaps between your mask and your skin, you’re not getting the benefit of your mask’s extra protection.
Different masks for different tasks
Choosing the right mask for you depends on your job, your lifestyle and where you might find yourself on a given day. Public transportation and medical environments, or places where you are very close to others for extended periods warrant a KN95. For outdoor interactions or layering, a fabric or surgical mask might be the best and most comfortable option for you. Need help getting the perfect fit? You can use surgical tape around the perimeter of your mask to stick it to your skin and seal up any gaps.
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It is important to note that while these masks are all designed to filter out at least 95% of airborne particles, they are not interchangeable and should not be used interchangeably. It is also important to make sure that the masks are properly fitted to the face to ensure their effectiveness.