How long can you wear an N95 mask, and other care tips

“I wear mine for a week,” said Linsey Marr, a civil and environmental engineering professor at Virginia Tech.

The material and filtration ability of an N95 mask “won’t degrade unless you physically rub it or poke holes in it,” Marr said. “You would have to be in really polluted air… for several days before it loses its ability to filter particles. So you can really wear them for a long time.

“People have talked about 40 hours – I think that’s fine. Really, it’s going to get gross off your face or the straps are going to get too loose or maybe break before you lose your filtration ability,” she added.

The reason N95 masks are designated as single-use is that they are categorized as medical masks, said Erin Bromage, associate professor of biology at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth.

A boy wears an N95 face mask.

In medical settings, healthcare workers are changing masks more frequently to avoid “contaminating a patient room with equipment that has been worn in an infectious person’s room, then moving to the next room and bring this infection with you,” he said. “When you then take a single-use, medical-grade item and put it out to the general public, we’re not concerned about you contaminating different environments that you’re in. It’s really about providing you with protection.”

The N95s “only cost about $1 each,” Bromage added, but prices have skyrocketed recently as public demand for these masks has grown amid concerns about Omicron variants. If you safely reuse N95s, you get at least two or three days of mask use, Bromage added, but “I realize that’s still an expense.”

Some local public health departments, such as the Maryland and Milwaukee Health Departments, offer free N95 masks.

Here’s what else you need to know about safely wearing and reusing N95 masks.

Why N95s?

Compared to cloth masks, properly fitted N95s are better at preventing tiny particles from entering your nose or mouth thanks to certain materials – such as polypropylene fibers – acting as both mechanical and electrostatic barriers to the air. shared, the main driver of coronavirus infection.
The difference between N95 and KN95 masks is where the mask is certified, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health. The United States certifies N95s, while China approves KN95s. About 60% of KN95 respirators sold in the United States are counterfeit and do not meet the requirements of the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Why You Should Update Your Mask As The Omicron Variant Spreads
“If they’re made to standard and certified by the appropriate boards in their country, like NIOSH here, they’re all basically doing the same thing,” Bromage previously told CNN. “But there are a ton of counterfeits that aren’t certified on the KN95 side, that may meet the standards but they’re not certified to meet them. And there are others that clearly don’t.”

N95 masks “are not made for children,” Marr said. “For bigger kids, my 10 year old wears a small size N95 (intended for adults).”

“If you see an N95 as being marketed for kids, that should raise a red flag,” Marr added. “There will be KN95s and KF94s that are designed and marketed for children. With these it’s the same issue that we discussed for adults, which is making sure you get them from a reliable and reputable source, because there is a problem with fake KN95s not being as protective as they should be.”

The N95 Project, the National Clearinghouse that works to provide equitable access to personal protective equipment and coronavirus testing, is a reliable source for N95 and KN95 masks, Marr said.

The KF94 are Korean standard masks.

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You may need to try different brands or shapes of KN95s, KF94s, or small N95s to find one that fits well and is comfortable for your child, Marr said. If you’re still having trouble adjusting the mask to your child’s face, you can tie the ear loops or use toggles or cord lock adjusters to make sure the mask is snug enough, she said. suggested. This CDC video on the knot and fold method might also help.

Reusing an N95 mask – and when not to

To reuse N95 masks in the safest way possible, avoid touching the front outer portion of the mask when putting it on, Marr said. Instead, try handling it by the edges or the straps. “Absolutely avoid the part right in front of where you breathe, like right in front of your nose and mouth,” she added.

Even after wearing an N95 in a crowded indoor environment – like a subway – Marr said “these masks are really designed to handle a lot of particles and will continue to work.”

However, a known exposure should affect your approach. If “I was working in an office and I was wearing an N95 and someone in my office had tested positive, I would know I was well protected,” Bromage said. “But I would probably throw that mask away. Because that mask did its job of trapping the virus and I don’t even want to risk it being there and falling on my hands or whatever.”

There are many N95 masks, but they are not designed for your children
That you might have unknowingly been near an infected person in any other public space – like a subway or a grocery store – while wearing an N95 mask is possible. Staying at least 6 feet away from others as much as possible can help reduce the risk of Covid-19.

If the mask becomes damp, visibly dirty, bent, creased or otherwise damaged — including from makeup — you should replace it because these conditions could decrease the effectiveness of the mask, Marr and Bromage said.

“The longer you wear it, the more it actually holds the material, which means the breathability, the resistance of the mask, starts to decrease,” Bromage said. “One of the first indicators of being able to change it if it looks nice and clean is that it just seems a little harder to breathe in. There seems to be more resistance with each breath.”

How to Disinfect N95 Masks

The longer and more frequently you wear an N95 mask, the more contaminated it can become. But the particles will die over the course of a few to several hours, Marr said, and even faster if you set the mask aside in the sun.

“Things like temperature and sunlight have an effect, but you don’t want to throw them in an oven or microwave,” Bromage said. “I used to stick mine on my car dash in the summer, and that would do more than enough as far as the heat and direct light it got. But in reality, it doesn’t There’s nothing you can really do to prolong its lifespan with cleaning that the average person can afford.”

Because N95 masks have this special static charge that helps filter out viruses, you shouldn’t wash the masks because the water will dissipate the charge, Marr said.

Overall, the risk of contamination from reusing N95 masks is “lower, much lower, than the risk of you not wearing N95 and breathing in particles,” Marr said. “I don’t want people to avoid wearing an N95 because they’re worried about contamination on an N95. The N95 is going to provide a major net benefit.”


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