Want to get maximum protection from COVID?
As the first signs of the pandemic emerged, people started hounding for supplies. Everyone was stocking up, preparing kits and equipment to keep protected and safe. One of the most vital pieces of protection prioritized was respirator masks.
Despite this, not everyone could get their hands on the right type of mask. With misinformation rampant, choosing one with confidence was almost impossible. This is why understanding the whats, whys, and hows of the best respirator mask is important.
Here are some interesting facts about respirator masks and what you need to know about them.
- Not All Respirators Are the Same
What are respirators? Ask someone from an industrial vs. medical field, and you might have different answers.
This comes to no surprise as respirators come in different forms, styles, and purposes. Despite this, they do have one thing in common – filtering out harmful particles from the air you breathe.
Click here for a good example like the N95 respirator mask. It’s a popular choice across multiple industries. During the height of the pandemic, CDC advised consumers to reserve them for front liners.
Depending on what they’re used for, respirator masks have specific manufacturing standards. A person working somewhere with extreme dust or soot may need a special filter.
Those dealing with mold or asbestos will need different cartridges. Ordinary cloth as a nose and mouth covering or protection for these situations won’t cut it. Remember that these respirators, filters, and cartridges are often not interchangeable.
- Some Masks May Not Work for Everyone
Compatibility is a crucial factor when choosing a respirator. The reasons why a particular respirator may not be a good fit can be medical, religious, or personal. People rarely consider that not all masks work for all people.
Medical reasons for respirators not working can include asthma or other breathing difficulties. These make many respirators, especially intense ones, problematic and even dangerous.
Religious beliefs and personal choices can also make it difficult to wear respirators. Respirators often require the removal of obstructions to function. Symbolic or personal clothing can get in the way of wearing one.
This can include items like piercings, facial hair, and hairstyles. If possible, choose respirators that accommodate your needs while still offering full protection.
CDC has specific requirements to ensure this. One of these is a skin-tight seal. This applies to both an industrial-grade mask and a medical respirator mask.
- Material and Make Matters
Masks, in general, serve as a barrier against many harmful substances and particles. However, depending on the make, type, and standard, some will offer more protection than others. If you’re looking for a respirator mask for COVID, then the CDC suggests that you at least opt for a surgical mask.
While most masks are single-use and disposable, alternatives are also available. Reusable cotton facemasks, in particular, are both environment-friendly and stylish. Note that the standards imposed on respirator masks vary.
EN 14683 is Europe’s standard for surgical masks, while the standard for China is YY 0469.
- Personalized Respirators Are a Thing
You may think respirators and masks are one size fits all, but they aren’t. The level of customizability also goes beyond small, medium, and large. In many fields, personalized respirators are a requirement.
There are two major reasons for this. The first is that sharing a respirator carries the severe risk of contamination. If you need a respirator regularly, ensure it is your personal one.
The other main reason is that everyone has a different shaped face and head. To ensure your respirator provides the most protection, it can customize it to your face. Many dangerous jobs will provide respirators that take your specific measurements into account.
- Respirators Can Be Limiting
Protection comes in many forms, but they aren’t suited for all uses. Respirators can impair movement, speech, and hearing, among others.
Keep this in mind when choosing which respirator to use. Masks that require you to clench a snorkel-like attachment in your teeth means you can’t speak. Full gas masks with face shields may muffle your voice as well.
Some respirators limit your field of vision or ability to turn your head. These can be dangerous in certain situations. Tripping or being unable to communicate in an emergency are crucial considerations.
- Multiple-layered Protection
Respirators aren’t only facemasks. They vary from full-face shield respirators to escape hoods and more. They all prioritize protecting your lungs, but many do even more.
Full face shield respirators, for example, protect your eyes. They also keep contaminants away from the sensitive skin on your face. Escape hoods usually come with full head and neck covering, offering even more protection.
- Correct Use Requires Training
Using some respirators isn’t as simple as slipping on a non-medical mask. Sometimes, you need to know what you’re doing and how the respirator works to be effective. Many workplaces offer training for how to put on, wear, and use your respirator.
Some industries, especially those exposed to hazardous particles and materials, have specialized respirators. They aren’t rocket science, but it’s still easy to misuse them. In most cases, you need to wear and tighten a respirator a sure way to get a perfect seal.
- Factor in Maintenance
Depending on the respirator mask types you have, you might need to do some maintenance. This fact comes as a surprise to those who have gotten used to disposable masks. There are quality respirators you can reuse.
Those made of silicon, rubber, or hard plastics are reusable and require cleaning and disinfecting. As long as you sanitize and remove contaminants, you can use them for an indefinite period. Check and replace your dirty filters or cartridges to keep respirators working.
- Respirator Authenticity Requires Approval
While there are many options for respirators and masks, not all of them have approval. The CDC certifies most respirators that meet their high standards. Some have approval from private labs, but this doesn’t make them an effective or medical grade one.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking any respirator is good enough. Always check for certifications and approval. A good go-to is knowits.niosh.gov to keep yourself updated.
There’s Plenty to Know About Respirator Masks
Respirator masks are necessary for protection, and there’s more to them than meets the eye. Make sure you consider everything before deciding which one to use for yourself. To get more updates about the pandemic, check out our other blog posts.