Protecting yourself and your loved ones can reduce the risk of exposure to Omicron and experts have said a better mask will help protect against transmission. Along with proper ventilation, physical distancing and good hygiene, face masks can help reduce the spread of COVID.
The dominant route for COVID transmission is through the inhalation of infectious aerosols. When someone with COVID coughs, sneezes, talks or even breathes, they are exhaling scores of tiny virus-laden particles into the air that others around them can breathe in.
According to The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) N95 masks provide the most protection.
– well-fitting surgical masks
– cloth masks, with multiple layers
– loose cloth masks worn over surgical masks
What are N95, KN95 and P2 masks?
N95 masks (above) are often made of multiple layers of polypropylene, a synthetic fibre. They are designed to achieve a very snug facial fit, with straps that go around the back of the head and edges that form a tight seal around the nose and mouth.
You may have also seen other similar masks referred to as KN95 and P2, the difference being the different standards they meet.
Both N95 and KN95 are designed to filter 95% of airborne particles (hence the ’95’), however, KN95 masks are designed to meet the Chinese standard for respiratory protection, while the N95 masks meet the standards set by NIOSH, a US-based mask-testing agency. P2 masks are designed to filter 94% of particles and meet the Australian and New Zealand standards.
Can you reuse masks?
Cloth masks are reusable and should be washed regularly. Dr. Gregory Poland, infectious disease expert at the Mayo Clinic, said when a mask becomes wet from exhalation or sweat, its efficacy decreases and advised rotating masks by day.
Is double masking really a thing?
If you are unable to use an N95 masks, experts recommend a surgical mask under a cloth mask can offer increased protection.
How do I ensure my family are protected from COVID?
The recommendations for children’s mask use mirror those for adults, so:
- try to avoid touching the outside of the mask. This means using the ear loops to put on and remove the mask. If the mask is doing its job effectively, there could be virus particles on the outside of the mask. Always wash or sanitise hands after touching the mask
- use a separate bag for storage. It’s important that a mask does not contaminate or be contaminated by other items
- ensure the mask covers both the mouth and nose
- wash cloth masks after every use. It may help to have several cloth masks so a fresh one can be used daily
- throw out surgical and N95 masks after each use
- don’t use a mask with valves. These won’t prevent an infected person spreading the virus.