Which is the best face mask to wear to stop bacteria and viruses? It is a question most people don’t have answers to or don’t even care to ask, but it’s a crucial one. Ignorance and naivety are why you will often see people wearing cloth masks even though they offer zero protection against airborne viruses and bacteria.
The best choice of the face mask depends upon the kind of environment you are in. There are places where some types of masks are ineffective or even completely useless. In this post, we will compare the common surgical masks and N95 respirators, two of the most commonly found types of masks available.
Surgical Masks Vs. N95
The best face mask to wear to protect against bacteria and viruses is an ongoing debate. Surgical masks have been the most widely used during the last year while the world grappled with the mysterious coronavirus. Anecdotal evidence shows that they have been highly effective in preventing the spread of the virus.
There has also been a huge increase in demand for N95 masks, also known as respirators. This is because they offer better air filtration and seem to be of sturdier quality. Surgeons in high-risk environments only use surgical masks, however so which type should you be relying on? Sure, you want a high level of filtration but comfort and breathability are important as well.
“Surgical masks are actually not designed to filter air, and have zero effect on airborne pathogens” says Dr Waters from Think Pharmacy in Brisbane, Australia. “They might make people feel safer but in actuality they have a negligible protective effect. They’re just not designed for the purpose that many people think they are.”
N95 respirators are tested to filter out at least 95% of airborne particles. These are the preferred face mask for usage in high-risk environments. For this reason, they are often used in hospitals, labs, construction jobs where dust and other hazardous chemicals are present, and clinics when the perceived risk is higher than normal.
Higher Filtration Performance
Compared to surgical masks, N95 masks offer a better filtration performance. In fact, surgical masks do not provide the user with any reliable protection against bacteria and viruses. They will not assist in stopping airborne diseases. Alternatively, N95 masks can block over 95% of airborne particles, because they seal around the mouth and nose. Higher filtration performance is one of the reasons why these medical-grade N95 masks are a safer option for the wearer.
The tight fit is another reason why N95 masks are the better mask. If you have worn each of these two masks, you will have noticed that the N95 masks fit tighter than the surgical types. They have a better seal fit and allow minimal leakage around the edges. Surgical masks do not offer such protection.
Fit to Any Shaped Face
One of the features that improve the safety of the N95 is the adjustable head strap and nose clips. You can adjust the elastic ear loop to snugly fit your face, and the metal nose clips can be tightened to custom fit your nose as well. These are not an option with most surgical masks.