Is Wearing KN95 Masks A Good Idea Amidst Rising COVID-19 Infections?September 23, 2020 2020-09-28 9:00
Is Wearing KN95 Masks A Good Idea Amidst Rising COVID-19 Infections?
Is Wearing KN95 Masks A Good Idea Amidst Rising COVID-19 Infections?
As the entire world slowly prepares to come out of the lockdown phase to resume economic activities, face masks are facing the biggest debate of all time – Are they really effective?
Although the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) have allowed people to use cloth masks to cover their mouths and noses in public, the question does remain whether these masks are at all effective in preventing the infection. This is because these two organizations were the first to intervene in the practice of wearing cloth masks before and raised questions about their effectiveness in the earlier days of the pandemic.
So, what changed?
Was it the inherent discomfort faced by the public in wearing industry-standard KN95 and N95 masks, or the costs of such masks, which took a toll on the daily expenses of the common people?
Another reason may be the inherent discomfort and breathing issues faced by a lot of people having preexisting respiratory problems. But, is not wearing masks during the pandemic safe? As the epidemiological data suggests, it’s not. In fact, it’s the opposite. Countries that have mandated the use of face coverings are not only showing a slow rate of COVID-19 growth but also lower mortality rates, according to the data accumulated globally. In many cases, even physical proximity to a COVID-19 positive person has not caused everyone around him/her to get infected from the virus, as they were wearing masks.
Now, coming to the type of mask you need to wear, there has been ample evidence to suggest the efficacy of KN95 and N95 masks in public places. In the beginning, these masks were being recommended only for the healthcare professionals and other front-line workers, as these were in short supply. But as the days passed, increased production of these masks not only made them available for the common people but also reduced their prices to a huge extent. After six months of fighting the virus, now everyone has access to KN95 and N95 respirators through eCommerce and offline medical stores.
How different are the KN95 and N95 masks?As both these masks are said to have 95% filtration capacity, people often get confused between the two. But, as similar as they may seem, it’s important to note that they are different. The KN95 masks are launched in the market after running additional fit-tests by the manufacturers on voluntary subjects. The N95 masks don’t require any such test in particular. However, they are considered to be slightly more breathable than their KN95 peers. This apart, the KN95 masks come with comfortable ear loops, unlike the head straps of N95 masks that make it easier for the wearer to keep the mask on for longer duration. As the N95 masks are needed more by the front line workers, doctors, and health professionals, the KN95 ones are safe alternatives for the common people, who are using cloth masks in public.
Why cloth masks aren’t that safe?According to the FDA, the washable cloth masks worn by most people don’t necessarily protect them from infections. These masks don’t meet the standards of high-quality respirators, like the KN95 masks. Also, they can get moist from sweat or respiratory droplets and need to be changed at least twice during a normal workday. As these face coverings are not disposable, it’s also difficult to keep them inside your bag or on your desk, as these places can get infected.
But these cloth masks can prevent the infected droplets from an asymptomatic carrier from spreading. This is the primary reason why the CDC has recommended these masks to control the spread. The idea is to make everyone wear a face covering so that they don’t spread the disease unknowingly. However, if you seek both-way protection from the virus, you should opt for the KN95 respirators that are made of multiple non-woven layers for 95% filtration abilities.
What are KN95 masks composed of?These masks or respirators mostly come with 5-layered protection against the virus and other particles of 0.3 microns or larger in diameter. They are also highly skin-friendly and don’t cause rashes or irritations on the skin, besides offering the best fitting for your face, which can be adjusted using the nose pin. It should be noted here that the KN95 masks are approved by the FDA and other national/international organizations as effective respirators to control the rate of infections without causing breathing difficulties to the wearer.
They have a pair of comfortable ear loops, unlike other masks of the same standard that often have head strap attachments. Even the masses favor the design of the KN95 masks, as they can be put on faster and easier than the other respirators. Besides the COVID-19 virus, the KN95 masks also protect you from anything greater than 0.3 microns in diameter, like bacteria, other viruses, pollutants, pathogens, and pollens.
Coming to the materials, the KN95 masks are made of 5 layers of non-woven, hot-air cotton and melt-blown fabric that together offer enhanced protection against viruses and other particles in the air. The non woven layers are moisture-resistant, thus helping you wear the mask for longer duration, mostly throughout the day, as they don’t get soaked by sweat. The other layers are hypoallergenic, thus preventing allergic reactions and skin rashes, which can be quite troublesome for the wearer. While the non woven, moisture-resistant layers prevent the infected droplets from entering the subsequent layers, the melt-blown layer in the middle stops all types of particles that manage to escape the front layers and give you disinfected, fresh air to inhale.
However, these masks are disposable and shouldn’t be used multiple times at a stretch. According to some health experts, you can wear them more than once, depending on the duration you have been wearing them for and dispose of them properly after. There’s no need to sanitize the KN95 mask using soap and water, or alcohol-based sanitizers, as it can reduce its efficiency by about 50%.
If you intend to use the mask one more time, keep it somewhere out in the open to get dried naturally and not use it for at least 24 hours. The virus doesn’t stay on any surface for that long, especially if it’s exposed in the sun.
Other reasons why wearing KN95 masks is a pretty good idea
- Availability – These masks are quite available for everyone in online stores. You can invest in a bunch for regular use. While the N95 and surgical masks are mostly recommended for healthcare workers and other professionals serving at the front-line, the KN95 ones are for the common public.
- Affordability – These masks are quite affordable, given the fact that should be disposed of after single use. As investing in face coverings is a need for the moment, it’s better to invest in an effective one that offers maximum protection against the virus.
- Approval – Most of the KN95 masks are approved by the FDA after a careful evaluation of their efficacy. This apart, the masks also go through several fit tests by the manufacturers before being launched in the market.