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The Common FAQ about the Use of N95 Masks

For N95 masks, I believe we are not unfamiliar, now N95 masks are still in short supply, so how to use N95 masks correctly is also a concern, today TESTEX to talk about this topic.

NIOSH N95 masks

According to the air filtration level standards of NIOSH, the letters “N”, “R”, “P” indicate the resistance to oily particles, “N” is not applicable to oily particles, “R” has a certain resistance, “P” is strong resistance to oily particles. “95” means that 95% of particles can be filtered.

The common FAQ about the use of N95 masks

N95 masks can be reused a limited number of times after contact with air, as long as they are not used in the process of creating aerosols and are not contaminated with patient body fluids, but also increase the risk of surface contamination with pathogens.

Currently, OSHA does not have any standards for the disinfection of N95 masks, but NIOSH notes that mask manufacturers may give recommendations for the maximum number of reuses. However, in the absence of these recommendations, the maximum number of times each N95 mask can be reused is recommended to be limited to five to ensure safety. The CDC instead recommends that reuse is not done in general, but in emergency situations, such as when masks are scarce, they can be washed and purified for reuse.

1 What do you need to pay attention to when wearing an N95 mask?

  • You should wash your hands before wearing the mask, or avoid touching the inner side of the mask during the process of wearing the mask to reduce the possibility of the mask being contaminated.
  • Separate the inside and outside, top and bottom of the N95 mask.
  • To try to make the mask and the face have a good fit. A simple test method is that exhale hard after wearing the N95 mask so that air cannot escape from the edge of the mask.
  • The protective mask must fit snugly on the user’s face and the user must shave their beard to ensure that the mask fits snugly on the face. The beard and anything that is placed between the mask gasket and the face can cause the mask to leak.
  • After adjusting the position of the mask to the shape of your face, press the nose clip along the top edge of the mask with the index fingers of both hands to make it fit snugly on the face.

2 How long can N95 masks be used? When should I replace it?

The filter on a NIOSH-approved N95 protective mask has a service life and is limited by hygiene, damage, and breathing resistance. Once the N95 protective mask is damaged, soiled, or has significant breathing difficulties, it should be used with caution and should be replaced in the following cases.

  • When there is a significant increase in breathing resistance.
  • When the mask is torn or damaged.
  • When the mask does not fit tightly to the face.
  • When the mask is contaminated (e.g., with foreign matter such as blood stains or droplets).
  • When the mask has been contaminated (used in individual wards or patient contact).
  • If the mask contains activated carbon and there is a bad smell inside the mask.
  • The mask has been used for too long.

Note: In industrial areas, N95 masks can be worn repeatedly if they are not damaged, soiled or difficult to breathe without regard to infectious disease and there is no prescribed wear time. However, in laboratories with biosafety level 2 or higher, N95 masks should be discarded as hazardous waste after one use.

3 Can respirator protective N95 masks with exhalation valves be used for medical protection?

Respirator masks with exhalation valves can be used in medical facilities where sterility is not required (e.g. temperature and blood pressure measurement areas). However, respirator masks with exhalation valves should not be used in situations where a sterile environment must be maintained (e.g., operating rooms) because the exhalation valves can diffuse unfiltered exhaled air into the sterile area outside.

For example, during this COVID-19, if you are a healthy person, the effect is the same with or without an exhalation valve, but if you are a carrier of the virus, you should choose an N95 mask without an exhalation valve for the protection of others.

4 Do N95 respirator protective masks come in different styles?

N95 filter mask respirators are available in a variety of colors, shapes, and styles. For individuals, not all styles may fit, and certain styles may provide more comfort and a better fit to the face.

As long as the N95 mask is NIOSH certified and used in accordance with OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) specifications, it will have the same effect regardless of the color, shape, or style of the N95 mask while maintaining airtightness.

5 What is the difference between medical surgical masks, N95 masks, and medical N95 masks?

Medical surgical mask N95 mask Medical N95 mask
Evaluation, Certification FDA NIOSH NIOSH and FDA
Application Prevents the spread of potential contaminants from the user to the surrounding environment. Can also be used to protect the wearer from large droplets, sprays, and splashes of body fluids. Reduces the wearer’s exposure to a wide range of particles. Can be used in medical environments to protect against harmful airborne particles. Need to maintain sterile areas for medical use, reduce the wearer’s exposure to certain airborne particles, and provide a barrier to splashes of contaminating fluids.
Face fit Not suitable for use close to the face. Designed to fit closely to the face, it creates a seal around the respirator, thus improving protection.
Airtightness No need to check airtightness. Airtightness needs to be checked before each use.
Filtration efficiency Does not effectively filter small airborne particles. Effectively filters airborne particles of all sizes.
Restrictions on use Single-use Use alone. Refer to point 2 for replacement.

6 What is the purpose of the expiratory valve?

The exhalation valve effectively reduces the resistance to exhalation, thus making breathing easier. Some users find that protective mask respirators with exhalation valves keep the face cooler and reduce the amount of moisture that collects in the mask.

7 Can I use an N95 mask that is not FDA approved in an environment with patients?

Protective masks that are NIOSH-N95 certified but not FDA-approved (i.e., non-surgical, non-medical) can be used as respiratory protection to reduce the risk of health care workers being exposed to harmful particles in patient environments. However, since these protective masks have not been evaluated by the FDA for the medical necessity of water resistance and flammability, they are not suitable for use in surgical settings.

Summary

Medical type and non-medical type N95 masks are the same in terms of effectiveness in filtering 0.3µm non-oil particles, both greater than or equal to 95%, and both can be used as respiratory protection.

Compared with non-medical N95 masks, medical N95 masks have more splash-proof and flammability-resistant requirements.

N95 protective masks can be reused without the influence of hygiene, damage, or increased breathing resistance. (Note that damage here includes such damaging practices as “disinfection by hairdryer heat”, “disinfection by hot water”, and “disinfection by microwave heat”).

The exhalation valve does not affect mask effectiveness, but if the user is a virus carrier, please do not use a mask with an exhalation valve to protect others.

 

 

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