Face masks come in a variety of forms and types. Like many people nowadays, you might be also confused about which mask or respirator to buy. You may be wondering which types of masks protect against COVID-19. Is an R95 or N95 mask better?
Let’s dive a little bit deeper to answer those questions.
Surgical Mask vs. Respirator
People must understand the difference between a surgical mask and a respirator. Surgical masks are used for protection from hazards like splashes of large droplets like body fluids or blood. Surgical masks can’t prevent inhalation of small airborne particles that can’t be seen with the naked eye. And no, a regular surgical mask won’t protect you from the new coronavirus. Respirators, on the other hand, are reducing the exposure to inhaling droplets of infectious contaminants. Respirators are approved by the NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health).
Both R95 and N95 masks are respirator masks and they are both certified by NIOSH.
So, what is the main difference between an R95 and an N95 respirator?
Respirators are classified into the following three categories, depending on their degree of resistance to oil-based particles:
N – Series (N95, N99, and N100) – Respirators that belong to the N-Series are not resistant to oil. They protect against liquid and solid particulates that don’t have oil.
R – Series (R95) – The R-Series respirators protect against hazards that possibly contain oil. This type of respirator mask is certified for up to 8 hours of usage.
P – Series (P95 and P100) – They provide strong protection against particulates that contain oil. P-Series respirator masks have 40 hours or 30 days of service life.
N95 masks remove 95% of the airborne particles that are at least 0.3 microns in diameter. N95 masks are labeled by the FDA as “single-use”, disposable devices. They can’t be reused or shared. Some models have exhalation valves that make breathing much easier. The borders of the N95 mask are designed to make a seal around the nose and mouth. The N95 mask doesn’t eliminate the risk of illness, but the filtration capacity surpasses that of surgical face masks.
R95 masks have the same percentage of particle removal as N95 masks. The only difference between them is that the R95 mask is oil-resistant, which is not important in the case of coronavirus. Plus, R95 respirators are more expensive.
What are oil particles?
When pesticides or some solvents are sprayed, oil particles are released into the air. These oil particles are the types of oil-based particles that R95 and P95 masks protect against.
Should I use an N95 or R95 mask for coronavirus?
N95 masks will do just fine. They are a cheaper option and it’s easier to find them.
When to use a mask
The best way to protect yourself from COVID-19 is to stay at home and avoid being exposed to the virus. You should wear a face mask only if you are sick (when you are in a room with other people) or if you are taking care of someone who is sick.
People with chronic respiratory, cardiac or other conditions should check with their health provider first.
Please note that as the situation with coronavirus continues to escalate, the formal advice might change. Meanwhile, pay attention to instructions given by your government or medical professionals.