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Levels 1, 2 and 3 Face Masks: How Do They Differ?

It's no secret that face masks are becoming an increasingly important part of personal protective equipment or PPE. With the outbreak of COVID-19, it's more important than ever to choose the right kind of face mask. But with so many options on the market, it can be difficult to know which type of mask is best for your needs and which is highly available.

To make choosing simple, you need to know the different types of face masks according to levels. How do different types and levels of face mask fare with one another? Which one suits your needs? Which level is excellent against COVID-19?

Read on to find out.

Why Is There a Need for Face Mask Classification?

Face masks are generally used in hospitals, clinics and other medical settings as part of standard procedures. However, when COVID-19 became a pandemic, the use of face masks became more widespread. As we remember those who have suffered greatly from the start of the outbreak, everyone is eager to do everything to protect themselves from the unknown.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends the use of face masks in public settings where social distancing is difficult to maintain, such as in grocery stores or pharmacies. 

Because of the pandemic, even the common population wants to know what works best during different situations. We all need to know the levels of classification of filtration these face masks are made of. 

Understanding the Different Levels of Face Masks 

The different levels of face masks correspond to the level of protection they provide. Levels are generally based on three factors: fluid resistance, bacterial filtration efficiency (BFE) and breathability.   

  • Level 1 

A level 1 face mask has a low barrier of protection and is mainly used during short procedures or exams that don’t involve fluid, spray or aerosolised airborne exposure. This level is the least protective and recommended for use by healthcare workers in low-risk situations, such as when caring for patients with stable conditions.

  • Level 2

A level 2 face mask has a moderate barrier of protection and is used during general patient care, as well as during procedures where moderate amounts of fluid, spray and/or aerosolised airborne exposure are anticipated. If compared to a level 1 face mask, a level 2 face mask gives more protection and can be used by healthcare workers in contact with patients with moderate to high risks of infection, such as during intubation and performing medical procedures.

  • Level 3

A level 3 face mask has the highest barrier of protection and is used during procedures where a high level of fluid, spray and/or aerosolised airborne exposure is anticipated.  Level 3 masks are designed for high-risk situations, such as during surgery or whilst caring for patients with a highly infectious disease. These masks can filter out more than 99% of bacteria and viruses, making them the most protective option on the market.

Today, people wear three major types of face masks according to texture. We have masks made of cloth, surgical masks and the P2 or N95 variants. So how do these types of masks fare with the level designation of face masks?

When it comes to factors like efficiency, thickness and texture, it is obvious how these three types fare. For example, cloth face masks are made of fabric and have less efficiency to trap droplets or airborne particles. This is why they can be considered at level 1.

Surgical masks (the blue mask popularly used in the medical field) are the ones recommended daily as they have a level of protection against the virus. This is the level 2 type of mask.

Finally, P2 or N95 masks have the highest quality and performance in terms of trapping the virus and protecting the people around you. They are a level 3 face mask.

The N95 mask is the US counterpart of Australia’s P2 mask. The standard filtration capacity of this mask is 95% of airborne particles, thus the ‘95’ in ‘N’. P2/N95 is highly effective and recommended for use against thermally and biologically generated particles, including airborne particles that are highly potent for COVID-19 transmission and infection.

How to Choose the Right Face Mask

With these levels and the face masks people generally use, how can we know the exact face mask we need?

The first step in choosing the right face mask is to identify what procedures or activities will be taking place that will require the use of a face mask. 

If you anticipate a high level of fluid, spray and/or aerosolised airborne exposure, then a level 3 face mask is right for you. If you anticipate moderate amounts of fluid, spray and/or consolized airborne exposure, then a level II face mask is right for you. And finally, if you anticipate only low amounts of fluid, spray and/or consolized airborne exposure, then a level I face mask is right for you.

Once you've identified the appropriate level of protection, the next step is to choose a face mask that fits well and is comfortable to wear. It's important to make sure that the mask covers your nose and mouth properly and that there are no gaps between the mask and your face. 

You should also avoid touching the outside of the mask whilst you're wearing it. If you need to adjust the fit of the mask, be sure to wash your hands before and after.

What Is the Best Face Mask Against COVID-19?

There is no definitive answer to this question as different face masks offer different levels of protection. The best face mask is the one that can protect you, protect others from you and be comfortable enough to use without difficulty in breathing. Be sure to choose a face mask that fits well and is comfortable to wear.

Dexcon | Leading Medical Device and PPE Supplier in Australia

When it comes to protecting yourself and others from the spread of illness, face masks are an essential tool. If you’re planning to buy your supplies, get them from Dexcon.

Dexcon is the trusted leader in PPE and medical supplies in Australasia. Our face masks and other medical products are of top quality. 

For more details about our products, contact us today. 


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