Improve the Fit and Filtration of Your Mask to Reduce the Spread of COVID-19




Types of Masks

There are many types of masks that can be used to protect yourself and others from getting and spreading COVID-19. The terminology used to describe masks is NOT standardized. The terms and definitions provided here might be different from the terms and definitions that are used for commercial products. A brief description of different types of masks and some of the pros and cons of each are described below.

Cloth Masks

Cloth masks can be made from a variety of natural and synthetic fabrics and fibers, and many types of cloth masks are available.

What to look for:

  • Look for a cloth mask that is made of multiple layers of tightly woven, breathable fabric.
  • Make sure your cloth mask blocks light from coming through the fabric if held up to a bright light source.

Features:

Pros: Easy to obtain; comfortable; affordable; convenient; washable and reusable; ear loops, tie cords, and nose wires (if available) can usually be adjusted.

Cons: Poorly fitting masks may have gaps around the sides of the face or nose. Gaps may allow respiratory droplets containing the virus to leak in and out around the mask. Depending on how they fit and how they are made, cloth masks vary in how well they can protect you and others from getting and spreading COVID-19.

Additional Considerations: A cloth mask can be layered on top of a medical procedure mask (forming a “double mask”) for improved fit and filtration. Using a mask fitter or brace may also help to improve fit.

Medical Procedure Masks (sometimes referred to as Surgical Masks or Disposable Face Masks)

Female wearing cloth mask

Medical procedure masks (including surgical masks) intended for community use are commercially available and are often sold as “disposable face masks.”

What to look for:

  • Check the labels to ensure that they are made of multi-layered, non-woven material.

Features:

  • Generally have ear loops that fit behind the ears. However, some available options have cords that tie around the head and neck rather than ear loops.
  • Some have a nose wire (a metal strip along the top of the mask) that can help to improve fit.

Pros: Easy to obtain; comfortable; affordable; convenient; disposable (good for situations when the mask may get wet or dirty); nose wires (if available) can be adjusted.

Cons: These masks often fit loosely. Masks with ear loops may not be adjustable enough to achieve a better fit. Masks with tie cords can provide a better fit for some people. Poor fit causes gaps around the nose and along the sides of the face, where respiratory droplets containing the virus can leak in and out; designed for one-time use.

Additional Considerations: A medical procedure mask can be layered underneath a cloth mask (forming a “double mask”) for improved fit and filtration. However, a medical procedure mask should not be layered underneath a second medical procedure mask. Using a mask fitter or brace may also help to improve fit.

KN95 Masks (also known as KN95 Respirators)

Female wearing N95 mask

KN95 masks are a type of filtering facepiece respirator that are commonly made and used in China. KN95 masks may be preferable in some situations or for some people – especially for situations that require prolonged close contact with people who do not live in the same household, or for people who are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

What to look for:

  • Look for KN95 masks that meet requirements similar to those set by CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) for respirators. Some KN95 masks sold in the United States meet requirements similar to those set by NIOSH, while other KN95 masks do not.

Features:

  • Often have ear loops that fit behind the ears. However, some available options have head straps.
  • Note: Do NOT wear KN95 masks with exhalation valves since they allow respiratory droplets containing the virus to escape.

Pros: Filter up to 95% of particles in the air (when they meet the right requirements and are not counterfeit/fake, and when proper fit can be achieved).

Cons: Can be uncomfortable; often requires more effort to breath; may be more expensive and difficult to obtain; designed for one-time use; many counterfeit (fake) KN95 masks are commercially available, and sometimes it is hard to tell if they meet the right requirements just by looking at them. At least 60% of the KN95 masks evaluated by NIOSH did not meet the requirements that they claim to meet.

Additional Considerations: It may be hard to achieve a proper fit with certain types of facial hair.

NIOSH-Approved N95 Respirators

CDC does not recommend the use of N95 respirators for protection against COVID-19 in non-healthcare settings. N95 respirators should be reserved for healthcare personnel and for other workers who are required to wear them for protection against other hazards.

Ways to Increase Mask Protection: Improve Fit and Filtration

  • Improve fit to help prevent air (potentially with respiratory droplets containing the virus) from flowing freely around the edges of the mask and instead forcing air to flow through the mask.
  • Improve filtration to cause more respiratory droplets containing the virus to be captured by the mask.

How to Improve Fit

DIagram of female showing how to control mask fit

COVID-19 spreads mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets that come out of the nose and mouth when people breathe, cough, sneeze, talk, shout, or sing. These respiratory droplets travel in the air and can then land in the noses and mouths of others, which spreads COVID-19. Therefore, in order to be effective, masks must always be worn over the nose and mouth.

Ensuring that masks fit well on the face is very important to help prevent getting and spreading COVID-19. A common problem with some masks is that there can sometimes be gaps between the mask and the mask wearer’s face. When there are gaps, air with respiratory droplets containing the virus can leak in and out around the edges of the mask (on the top or the sides). To help prevent air leakage, masks should fit snugly against the sides of the face and not have gaps.

Options to Improve Mask Fit

Female adjusting nose clip on a mask

Nose Wires: Use cloth or medical procedure masks that have a nose wire (a metal strip along the top of the mask) to help prevent air leakage at the top of the mask. Nose wires can also help to prevent fogging of eyeglasses. To get a good fit, make sure to bend the nose wire over your nose to conform to your face.

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Author: Admin

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