Types, Effectiveness, And Limitations Of Face Masks

Types, Effectiveness, And Limitations Of Face Masks

Types

Basic cloth face mask

Description. The cloth face mask serves as the standard version of a face mask. Medical experts recommend it for public use during this time of pandemic brought about by the spread of COVID-19. In addition, the scientific community recommends wearing this type of face mask when going to a grocery store, gas station, or any other open public place.

Effectiveness. The filtration effectiveness of this mask is generally lower than that of surgical masks and respirators. However, if well-designed and used correctly and properly, it may provide some degree of protection. This mask counters the spread of infections caused by sick or asymptomatically infected persons when used by people living in the local communities. Consequently, this action fosters public health.

Limitation. Until proven otherwise, wearing cloth masks should not be mandated for healthcare workers.

Cloth face mask
Cloth face mask

Surgical face mask

Description. The surgical face mask comes from a thin and disposable material. Medical professionals assigned to manage drive-thru testing for COVID-19 wear this mask to cover their noses and mouth. Doctors and respiratory therapists wear this type of mask while working and on duty in hospitals, medical clinics, and other places where patients assemble for consultations.

This mask establishes a physical barrier protecting the mouth and nose of the wearer from possible contaminants arising from his environment. In addition, it prevents the exhalation or ejection of contaminants from the mouth and nose during general medical settings. It is loose-fitting, and the edges do not seal around the nose and mouth.

Effectiveness. A surgical face mask can primarily block large-particle droplets, splashes, sprays, or splatters that may contain viruses or bacteria. In effect, it prevents disease-causing germs from reaching your mouth and nose. While protecting you from possible infections, it also limits and reduces the exposure of your saliva and respiratory secretions, which could cause diseases to others.

Limitation. A surgical face mask cannot block tiny and microscopic particles lingering in the air. Hence, microorganisms transmitted by coughs, sneezes, or some medical procedures could possibly enter your nose and mouth. For this reason, this mask does not provide you with complete protection from germs and other contaminants. The loose fitting between the surface of your shield and your face allows a possible entry of disease-causing microorganisms. Further, this mask is disposable, and not advisable to use it more than once. If noted to be damaged or soiled, remove and discard it safely and replace it with a new one.

Limitation: People having difficulty breathing due to respiratory or heart illnesses need to seek clearance from their medical doctors before using an N95 respirator. When used, it makes it more difficult for the wearer to breathe.

Surgical face mask
Surgical face mask

N95 respirator

Description. Healthcare workers and personnel considered medical first responders or front-liners use this type of face mask. They are the first ones who attend to the patients upon arrival in the hospital or medical clinic. Do not purchase and use this mask if you do not work directly with patients. Right now, these masks are scarce and in short supply. Hence, medical front-liners deserve to have one from a limited number because they need them.

Effectiveness. This face mask achieves a very close facial fit. Thus, it is very efficient to filter airborne particles. Its edges provide an efficient seal around your nose and mouth.

Limitation: People having difficulty breathing due to respiratory or heart illnesses need to seek clearance from their medical doctors before using an N95 respirator. When used, it makes it more difficult for the wearer to breathe.

N95 respirator
N95 respirator

Filtering facepiece respirator

Description. This face mask is disposable, like the surgical one. It cannot stop the spread of airborne diseases. Instead, it decreases the exposure to particles coming from wood dust, animal dander, and pollen. Hence, individuals afflicted with allergies can use this type of mask during this time of the pandemic.

Effectiveness. Filtering facepiece respirators receive an assigned protection factor (APF) of 10. It means that the gadget reduces your exposure to a particular contaminant by a factor of 10.

Limitations. There are still others that affect the degree of your exposure. These are: (1) how well the mask fits your face, (2) the particle size of the contaminant, and (3) the environmental conditions where to use it.

Filtering facepiece respirator
Filtering facepiece respirator

P100 respirator/gas mask

Description. Healthcare workers do not need this mask. Instead, woodworkers and other workers exposed to lead, asbestos, or chemicals need them. It cannot prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, employees and personnel in industrial and chemical companies will benefit from its use.

Effectiveness. The amount of particulate matter effectively blocked by a respirator filter serves as the basis of its rating. A rating of P100 signifies the highest for personal respiratory protection. If your mask fits snugly, a P100 filter will block 99.9% of particles with a diameter of 0.3 microns or larger.

Limitation. If the filter is clogged, you need to change your mask. You cannot continue using it because you cannot breathe.

P100 respirator/gas mask
P100 respirator/gas mask

Self-contained breathing apparatus

Description. Firefighters wear this face mask when they try to penetrate burning buildings and other infrastructures.

Effectiveness. This mask allows the firemen to breathe clean air even if impurities produced by the raging fire saturate the environment.

Limitation. Thus, this mask has no place at all in preventing the spread of COVID-19. Suppose you buy one of these masks without adequately considering its proper use. You are possibly depriving one fireman or rescue worker who needs it.

Self-contained breathing apparatus
Self-contained breathing apparatus

Full face respirator

Description. You may have a problem breathing when using a cloth or surgical mask. If you do, you need a full-face respirator that is more often than not used in home improvement projects.

Effectiveness. Full face respirator covers the whole face, and it provides breathable air. It protects the eyes from the irritating effects of gases, vapors, and airborne particles. These respirators are NIOSH-rated, so the users are informed of the level of protection.

Limitation. If you do not have breathing problems, you do not need this type of mask. Refrain from buying and using it so that those who need it will find one easier.

Full face respirator
Full face respirator

Full-length face shield

Description. A full-length face shield is a plastic version of the glass worn by welders. It appears flimsier, and it covers the entire face from the forehead up to the chin.

Effectiveness. Reusable, easy to clean, lightweight, full-face protection. It protects the eyes and faces from the splashing of liquid substances. Prospective users can wear it with eyeglasses with ease and comfort.

Limitation. Experts do not recommend this to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Full-length face shield
Full-length face shield

KN95 respirator

Description. Both KN95 and N95 masks capture 95% of small particles.

Effectiveness. Both of them are practically similar to each other.

Limitation. KN95 cannot capture large particles.

KN95
KN95 mask

Precaution  

Face masks are not made equal. Before using a particular face mask for a specific purpose, ensure to select the proper one—capable of protecting you from any harm.   

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