Recently on AMA’s (American Medical Association) What Doctors Wish Patients Knew series, N95 respirators were discussed. In the article, two AMA members shared a range of information regarding N95 and KN95 masks. Although the article focuses on N95 respirators, many of the discussion points also apply to other certified devices such as FFP2 masks.
In the article's opening, the two AMA members discuss the importance of wearing N95s over surgical and low-filtration masks. This all comes down to the protection offered - since N95s are no longer in short supply, there is no reason not to opt for the respirators offering > 95% filtration. They also discuss how other masks, such as KN95s and KF94s, provide a similar level of protection - just be mindful that the masks don’t have valves.
The two doctors then discuss the importance of ensuring the whole lower half of your face is covered when wearing a mask. While a fit-test is essential for healthcare workers and anyone using the masks in an occupational setting, even nonfit-tested masks provide protection for 25 hours of exposure (provided both the infected and susceptible individual are wearing N95 or equivalent masks).
It’s important to judge our exposure levels and wear masks in public spaces or high-risk situations. For example, when in unventilated spaces or a home with someone quarantining, it’s essential to wear a high-filtration respirator capable of giving us a high level of protection.
Dr Seija also brings up an interesting point regarding relaxing while wearing N95s (and other respirators). Often, we tend to have some anxiety when wearing these devices, which can lead to claustrophobia or suffocating. However, with masks becoming the new normal, it’s important to relax as best we can when wearing a mask.
The conversation then leads to fit, where glasses fogging and irritation are discussed. In the case of glasses fogging, this indicates that a respirator or mask is not sealing correctly, and a leak is present somewhere in the seal. To avoid this, wearers can remove their glasses and correct the seal before fitting them again. For many, this will decrease the likelihood of glasses-fogging.
Irritation is also discussed as this is a common side effect of a tightly-fitted mask. In this case, it’s most likely the mask simply isn’t fitted correctly to you. In this case, you’ll want to look for a larger or entirely different device. While there will often be a sense of tightness, we need to see how much we are willing to tolerate it. For this reason, a comfortable mask is essential