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It’s been almost two years since COVID-19 first built its ugly head. You may have found what suits you when it comes to PPE – whether it’s a popular type of mask, a popular brand of hand sanitizer or a face shield that you like to use in a high-risk environment. These precautionary measures, especially face masks, have played a key role in slowing the spread of COVID-19 during a pandemic and have become an essential element to be had at home and on the go.
The coronavirus pandemic is constantly evolving, as are our responses to it. Experts are now calling for better wearing of veils, with increasing evidence that conventional cloth drapes no longer adequately protect against COVID-19. As new variants continue to emerge, including the incredibly contagious omicron variant, experts are calling for improved protection options such as the N95 and KN95 masks.
► Related: How to find the best KN95 masks for children, because the fabric mask does not cut it
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Finding and buying counterfeit N95 masks is not necessarily as easy as buying cloth or surgical masks. With limited supplies at the onset of the pandemic, many manufacturers only offered large N95 respirators for medical facilities.
This means that it is now possible to find and purchase real N95 masks on the consumer market at a fair price – and this may just be the next best purchase you can make to protect yourself and others during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s what you should know about the N95 and KN95 masks and where you can buy them online.
►More: Most people still wear cloth masks. Here’s why it’s a problem with omicron
Why choose N95 masks?
N95 masks were mainly used in healthcare before the COVID-19 pandemic as a tool to achieve highly efficient filtration against airborne particles. However, as the virus evolves and becomes more contagious, many experts advocate the widespread use of N95 masks among the general public.
The argument for wearing the N95 is that it is the gold standard for facial covers. When properly seated, masks approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) can filter up to 95% of airborne particles. When dealing with a respiratory virus such as this coronavirus, N95 masks can make a big difference in protection against infection.
Several studies have examined and continue to examine the effectiveness of different types of masks, especially as the pandemic is constantly evolving. Take this experiment, which researchers at Duke University conducted last year and tested against different types of masks to find out which mask is most effective at blocking airway droplets. Considering factors such as proper fit and environment variables, N95 masks were most effective at blocking droplets – exactly 99%. Another best mask? Surgical masks followed by a two-layer, polypropylene-cotton mask (or cloth mask).
Dr. Sabrina Assoumou, an infectious disease physician at Boston Medical Center, is one of the experts recommending upgraded masks: “If you are in a public indoor environment, we recommend that you wear a well-fitting, high-quality mask there. With omicron and how portable it is, I feel we should all move on to wearing better and better masks. “
N95 vs KN95 vs KF94: What to know
You may have seen talk of N95 and KN95 masks, which are sometimes – and inaccurately – used interchangeably. In nominal terms, they are similar and both have a 95% filtration efficiency. The main difference between the two is which countries or organizations have certified the mask quality standard. N95 masks are NIOSH certified, while KN95 masks – which are the most widely used by the CDC – are made in China and meet Chinese-specific standards. KF94 masks, which provide a unique shape compared to N95 and KN95, are manufactured in Korea and meet Korean standard requirements.
In 2020, the FDA granted permission for emergency use (EUA) for some masks KN95 due to lack of N95 masks. The FDA, however, has since abolished the EUA for unapproved NIOSH respirator because some masks KN95 not necessarily meet American standards when it comes to filtering. In addition, the CDC estimates that about 60% of the respirator KN95 in the United States is counterfeit and sub-standard NIOSH. Because of this gap may be best to stick with NIOSH approved respirators approved and CDC.
However, some people may prefer KN95 and KF94 for everyday use in non-medical environments. The N95 may be limiting for some due to their protective layered construction, so KN95 or KF94 could be a suitable alternative for those who are not comfortable wearing the N95 for long periods of time. “I recently upgraded to use more KN95 – which means upgrading from cloth or surgical masks – for indoor public spaces,” says Assoumou. “If you find a KN95 or KF94 mask, they are useful because they are a little more comfortable and bearable.”
Where to buy masks N95s and KN95s online
Good Fide Masks
How to tell if a N95 mask is a fake
When buying the N95, the opportunity to encounter counterfeit respirators is a reality, especially when the demand for these masks is constantly growing. “Counterfeit manufacturers are becoming more sophisticated,” said Jim Churchman, vice president of purchasing and supply chain at Duke University Health System. “As a result, the ability to identify nuances that indicate a counterfeit product is becoming increasingly difficult.”
These masks may look and even look like N95 masks, but may not meet the necessary testing and criteria of the actual N95. Most importantly, the respirator has been tested and certified by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) when assessing authenticity. “Both the mask and its case should be marked as ‘NIOSH approved,'” said Dr. Stella Hines, an associate professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
The CDC says some signs of a counterfeit respirator include a misspelled “NIOSH” or a missing respirator or headband approval number. In addition, N95 should specifically use headbands, not ear loops – those with ear loops can be real KN95 or KF94, but No real N95. To determine if a particular N95 brand or model is NIOSH approved, you can check the list of NIOSH-certified devices.
How to reuse N95 masks
N95 masks are the optimal choice – but they are usually also the most expensive. Using disposable masks such as N95 or surgical masks may also seem like a waste compared to a reusable cloth mask. While the N95 and KN95 masks are disposable masks, many people have found ways to reuse them effectively.
For crisis capacity with “adaptation of space, personnel and resources”, such as a lack of PPE, the CDC approves strategies such as limited re-use of face masks where necessary. In addition, one study – which, as we should note, was not reviewed – examined how N95 respirators can be reused with various “cleaning” strategies, such as rotating multiple masks or exposing them to heat.
You can also consider rotating the N95 masks every few days and storing the mask in a breathable paper bag between uses, a method used by many healthcare professionals when PPE supplies were limited. “For the N95 we recommend to go [the mask] every day, ”says Assoumou. “But you can turn them. If you have three masks, [for example]you can number and switch them. ”
Keep in mind that over time, reusing your mask may begin to reduce its protective properties over time. Reuse at your discretion and look for any visible signs of mask wear, such as fraying, stretched tape, or damage to the mask itself.
How to maximize your protection against any mask
Although the N95 respirators are best in class, you can still achieve the level of protection and fit from other masking methods. The effectiveness of the mask largely depends on factors such as adapting to your face, so it is important that you wear the mask and wear it. correctly.
“You always want to think about fitting and filtering,” says Assoumou. “You can wear a surgical mask and put on a cloth mask. This is what the CDC has been recommending for some time,” referring to the CDC’s recommendation on double masking. He explains: “The cloth mask adds that it improves the fit – it fits better around the mouth and prevents gaps. This is a problem with many surgical masks – you get filtration, but there are gaps along the way. This would be an easy way to improve it. what you are currently using. “
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