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As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps across the United States, it has revived a conversation about face masks and how effective each is in protecting you from infection. In particular, two types of masks have gained popularity over this time. These are surgical masks and N95 masks. While many people can visually tell the difference between these two masks, not many people know the difference in functionality.
In this article, we explain to you the difference between these two types of masks and the level of protection that they offer you.
These come in a variety of colors and are normally rectangular in shape with two straps at each end to sling around the ears. Surgical masks are meant to be disposable and act as a barrier that prevents fluid droplets from reaching the nose or mouth. While surgical masks offer some level of protection, they are not designed to protect you from tiny droplets. In this sense, surgical masks offer less protection than N95 masks. The feature of surgical masks is that they are not designed to have a close fit over your face but simply cover your mouth and nose loosely. This also means that the level of protection that they offer you is also limited due to these characteristics.
These masks offer a greater degree of protection as they are designed to offer a closer fit, effectively sealing off your nose and mouth. The filtration component on the mask is also able to filter out tiny droplets that may be generated by coughs and sneezes. This in turn offers a greater degree of protection for you. There is a variant of N95 masks known as the industrial N95 Respirator. This variant is even more effective at sealing your nose and mouth off and trapping contaminants in the air.
When to Use Surgical Masks or N95
The choice of what mask you are going to use is largely dependent on the level of risk that you are exposed to. When going about day-to-day activities and assuming that you are adhering to social distancing rules, then surgical masks are fairly effective at keeping you safe from infection. While they do not offer 100% protection, they greatly minimize the chances of infection. If you are going to a high-risk environment (for example health workers and even restaurant workers), it might be advisable to ramp things up and use an N95 mask. This offers a higher degree of protection and filters out most contaminants in the air. It is important to note that even an N95 mask does not offer 100% protection. You will still need to observe all the safety rules that are recommended. They include hand washing as well as maintaining social distance.
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