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N95 Respirator Mask and Other Face Mask Types: Basic Information

N95 Respirator Mask and Other Face Mask Types: Basic Information

In this time of COVID-19 pandemic, it is crucial to recognize that the optimal way to stop the transmission of microorganisms of this virus is to use a combination of interventions from across the hierarchy of controls. One of which is using PPE, including masks.

Wearing a mask is a critical public health tool for stopping the spread of COVID-19. Remember that any mask is better than not wearing a mask at all. N95 masks, surgical masks and fabric masks are some examples of personal protective equipment or PPE that can be used to protect the wearer from liquid contaminants.

Different Types of COVID-19 Masks Explained

To protect yourself and others from COVID-19, you must consistently wear the most protective mask available. It also should fit you well. Face masks serve as a barrier that covers the nose and mouth of the wearer and are utilised as source control by the general public and healthcare professionals

Here are the types of COVID-19 masks you need to know.

N95 Respirators

An N95 mask is a respiratory protective device designed to fit the face snugly and provide efficient filtration of airborne particles. Its edges form a seal around the nose and mouth. 

Surgical N95 respirator face mask respirators are commonly used by health professionals in healthcare and medical settings. The following is an explanation of the N95:

  • N - the N letter refers to a respirator rating letter class. It stands for non-oil, meaning that if no oil-based particulates are present, you can wear the mask in the work environment. Other examples of mask ratings are R, which provides resistance to oil for up to 8 hours, and P, which is entirely oil proof.
  • 95 - Masks bearing the N95 description have a 95% efficiency, whereas masks ending in 99 have a 99% rate of efficiency. Masks ending in 100 only have a 99.97% rate of filtering efficiency, which is comparable to a HEPA quality filter.
  • 0.3 microns - Masks block a range of contaminants, such as specks of dust, mists and fumes. The minimum size they can block is 0.3 microns of particulates and large droplets. These particulate matters won’t pass through the barrier.
  • Material - N95 respirator mask filtration material consists of electrostatic nonwoven polypropylene.
  • Valve - Some disposable N95 masks are incorporated with an exhalation valve. The valve decreases exhalation resistance, making it easier to breathe.

Fabric Face Masks

Fabric face masks do not meet the standards for fluid barrier or filtration efficiency levels. Hence, these facemasks are not a suitable replacement for N95 respirators or other filtering facepiece respirators (FFRs) that provide respiratory protection to the wearer. 

Barrier Face Coverings

A barrier face covering must at least cover the nose and mouth of the wearer. Its main purpose is to provide source control and filter particulates to prevent the amount of inhaled particulate matter. Barrier face coverings cannot be used as a replacement for an N95 mask, FFRs and rated surgical masks.

Surgical Masks

Surgical masks are loose-fitting disposable devices. They act as a physical barrier between the wearer’s mouth and nose and contaminants in the environment. Surgical masks may be labelled specific to their application, such as surgical, isolation, dental or medical procedure masks. 

Surgical masks are manufactured in different thicknesses and with different abilities to protect the wearer from liquids. These features may also impact the breathability of the face mask and how well the surgical mask protects you.

Face masks must be worn as part of a comprehensive strategy of measures to mitigate transmission and save lives. However, wearing masks alone is not enough to provide optimal levels of protection against COVID-19.

If COVID-19 is rampant and spreading in your community, keep yourself safe by following precautions, including physical distancing, wearing a mask, keeping rooms well ventilated, avoiding crowds and hand sanitising. Also, check protocols and guidelines where you live and work and follow them all.

If you’re in Australia and you want more information about face masks and COVID-19, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) publishes information and resources about face masks for the general public and health professionals

What Are the Materials for Making Masks for Coronavirus Disease?

Face masks must provide filtration, breathability and a comfortable fit. If you opt to make your own mask, it must consist of three layers of fabric:

  • An inner layer, which should be made of absorbent materials like cotton.
  • A middle layer, which should be made of nonwoven non-absorbent materials like polypropylene.
  • An outer layer, which should be made of non-absorbent materials like polyester or polyester blend.

Dexcon | Leading Medical PPE Supplier in Australia

As wearing a facemask becomes a normal part of going out in public and being around other people, make sure you have enough supply and that you have quality ones.

Dexcon is a leading supplier of premium medical devices and PPE for the medical, industrial and retail sectors both in Australia and the world. Our products include medical face shields, surgical masks, P2 respirators, COVID-19 antigen rapid test kits and more. Contact us for more details.


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