Face masks come in various forms and not all of them can be found easily, especially when everybody is chasing for one. Many pharmacies ran out of masks while a lot of online retailers sell counterfeited models that are not going to protect you from the microscopic infected particles.
Humankind has been fighting the novel coronavirus for 3-4 months now and most people try to do everything in their powers to protect themselves. While good hygiene will keep the viruses away at home, you need a face mask when you go to crowded places – like your nearest grocery store, bank or pharmacy. But don’t worry, we have your back!
After taking into account the efficiency and price of each mask, we put together a simple guide that will help you decide which type of mask you should buy.
1. Medical Face Masks
These masks usually have three layers of fabric that block droplets, splashes, sprays, or splatter that may contain viruses or bacteria. Therefore, the infected people cannot spread the virus while wearing this mask and the uninfected can keep the viruses away.
However, surgical masks’ loose fit is one of the problems that make this type of mask less attractive.
“Surgical masks are not intended to be used more than once. If your mask is damaged or soiled, or if breathing through the mask becomes difficult, you should remove the face mask, discard it safely, and replace it with a new one,” says the US Food and Drug Administration.
“To safely discard your mask, place it in a plastic bag and put it in the trash. Wash your hands after handling the used mask,” says the FDA.
Availability and price
Medical face masks, or surgical masks, are probably the most common type of masks. If your community hasn’t suffered from ‘masks fever’ so far, chances are you will find plenty of these at any local pharmacy and at a very low price, even at less than a dollar.
2. N95 respirators, FFPs and more
Unlike the common medical face masks, N95 respirators and the filtering facepieces (FFP), have a close facial fit and very efficient filtering. Therefore, they provide better protection against unhealthy airborne particles than loose-fitting medical masks. Also, they can be used for a longer period than their previous counterparts.
The ‘N95’ name comes from the fact that these masks keep away 95% of particles. The FFPs are their European equivalent and they provide about the same amount of protection. The KN95 is N95’s Chinese equivalent.
Here is a table from CEN (European Committee for Standardization) that will make you get a better idea:
|Respirator Standard||Filter Capacity (removes x% of all particles that are 0.3 microns in diameter or larger)|
|FFP1 & P1||At least 80%|
|FFP2 & P2||At least 94%|
|N95||At least 95%|
|N99 & FFP3||At least 99%|
|P3||At least 99.95%|
|N100||At least 99.97%|
Availability and price
It’s harder to find N95s, FFPs and KN95s around the hood, as they say, but you may get lucky if you do a fast search on the web. However, beware of who you buy from. We do not recommend you to shop from unauthorized sellers. Remember, many people want to profit from the COVID-19 crisis. You need to be smart enough to not fall in their traps. Be careful!
The prices on the market vary a lot as we are in a plain health crisis. So, after some estimations, you would be on the right track if you found one at about $10.
3. Cloth masks
Cloth masks are nothing else but textile materials – an old T-shirt, a scarf or a simple ninja mask, for example. According to the CDC, “the cloth face cover is meant to protect other people in case you are infected”. Shortly said, if you sneeze or cough in your cloth mask, it is less likely to send infected particles to other people. However, the cloth mask doesn’t have a too good filtration system as many fabrics permit the entrance of microscopic particles.
Availability and price
Cloth masks are free of charge. I mean, we all have an old T-shirt thrown in the back of the closet, don’t we? And if you don’t know how to transform an old garment into a mask, look no more. Here is US Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams with a hands-on guide.
Whether you’re going to grab a set of medical face masks, a few highly-protective N95s, or simply go for a handy but less effective cloth mask, you can now upgrade your defense measures against viruses and help the world get past the coronavirus pandemic.
*Health care workers need face masks more than anyone, so buy a mask only if you are in danger of getting infected.