Difference Between N95 and KN95 Masks
Which Surgical Masks Best Suit Your Needs For COVID-19?
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What is the Difference Between an N95 and a KN95 Face Mask?
According to mask manufacturer 3M, “it is reasonable to consider” China’s KN95s “equivalent” to US N95s. Mask standards for Europe (FFP2), Australia (P2), Korea (KMOEL), and Japan (DS) are also highly similar. N95 and KN95 respirator masks are the same. Both masks are rated to capture 95% of tiny particles (0.3 micron particles, to be exact). Since N95 and KN95 masks are rated to capture 95% of 0.3 micron particles, people will often assume that masks can’t capture particles smaller than 0.3 microns. If that was true, then it wouldn’t make sense that masks do a really good job of preventing virus transmission.
The key differences between N95 and KN95 masks:
- To be certified as a KN95 mask, the Chinese government requires the manufacturer to run a special mask fit test on real humans with ≤ 8% leakage. The N95 mask standard does not require manufacturers to run fit tests.
- N95 masks have slightly stricter requirements for pressure drop while inhaling. That means they’re required to be slightly more breathable than KN95 masks.
- N95s also have slightly stricter requirements for pressure drop while exhaling, which should help with breath-ability.
The N95 has been approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the U.S. organization responsible for regulating masks. “The KN95 has not been approved by NIOSH,” according to Dr. Ting Ting Wong, internist and infectious disease specialist at New York-Presbyterian Medical Group Brooklyn. “It has been approved in other countries, namely China. The United States has a very rigorous approval process. The mask has not gone through it yet.” That being said, KN95 masks HAVE been approved by the FDA.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF N95 OR KN95 MASKS?
The biggest benefit to the N95 or the KN95 masks is that they filter 95 percent of aerosol particulates. Both masks are made from several synthetic material layers and are intended to be worn over the mouth and nose. By wearing the mask properly, they both filter out 95 percent of aerosol particles that could potentially be carrying the novel coronavirus. Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York stated the following: “What’s important to realize is that it’s the tight-fitting seal on your face that gives the N95 superior protection, other than the actual high quality filtering properties of the mask itself." He then continued to say, “This is vital for healthcare workers and others who may have close contact with confirmed COVID-19 patients or those at risk.” It is vitally important to note that neither mask is effective unless worn properly.
Benefits of N95 Masks
N95 Masks are respirator masks that is designed to create a very tight facial fit. This increases its efficacy by disallowing droplets and small particles into the mask. Edges of N95 respirator masks are designed to form a seal around the nose and mouth. N95 respirator masks are most often used in healthcare settings such as hospitals and medical clinics. They actually a subset of Filtering Facepiece Respirators (FFRs), but commonly referred to as N95 Surgical Masks. Buy N95 Surgical Masks here! It is important to note that N95 Masks are tested for fluid resistance. In addition, they are tested for filtration efficiency, flammability and biocompatibility.  Furthermore, medical journal Science Advances has reported that the most effective masks are fitted, non-valved N95 masks.
Benefits of KN95 Masks
While KN95 masks have been approved in other countries such as China, the United States has a more rigorous testing process. Furthermore, nearly 70% of KN95 masks approved abroad did not pass NIOSH filtering requirements. That being said, KN95 masks are considered effective due to their construction and design. KN95 masks are composed of two outer layers. These outer layers are created out of non-woven materials that are able to filter particles measuring at or bigger than .5 microns in diameter. Next, they are designed to achieve less than 8% leakage. Although the N95 Mask is superior to the K95 mask, they are a suitable alternative when shortages to the N95 mask are experienced.
ARE THERE DIFFERENT OPTIONS FOR SURGICAL MASKS?
If you don’t have access to an N95 or KN95, a surgical mask is the next best option. However, the latest from Fauci is that it may be best to double mask surgical masks to increase their effectiveness. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are several key differences between surgical masks and N95 masks. Surgical masks are cleared by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), while N95 masks are evaluated, tested, and approved by NIOSH. Surgical masks are fluid resistant and protect against large droplets, splashes, or sprays of bodily or other hazardous fluids. N95s reduce the wearer’s exposure to particles, including small particle aerosols and large droplets. Surgical masks are loose-fitting, while N95s are tight-fitting (provided they are worn properly). Surgical masks do not have a fit testing requirement. N95s do have a fit-testing requirement. Surgical masks do not have a user seal check requirement. N95s do have a seal check requirement. Surgical masks do not provide the wearer with a reliable level of protection from inhaling smaller airborne particles. N95s filter out at least 95 percent of airborne particles. Surgical masks leak around the edge of the mask when the user inhales. When properly worn, N95s have minimal leakage.
Cloth masks are not tested or regulated, and each type of cloth has a different level of filtration. That said, a cloth mask is preferred over no mask at all. But to have the maximum amount of protection and filtration, a doubled-up surgical mask or a properly worn N95/KN95 is preferred. “Cloth masks are the most permeable and offer the least protection, but are better than no mask at all,” added Dr. Eric Cioe-Pena. Dr. Cioe-Pena holds the position of director of global health at Northwell Health in New Hyde Park, New York. “I have often said that the best mask is the one people are going to wear at all times when out of the home. A KN95 is not better than a surgical mask when you keep taking it off.”
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT N95 & KN95 MASKS
Why should people wear masks?
Masks are a key measure to suppress transmission and save lives. Masks should be used as part of a comprehensive ‘Do it all!’ approach including physical distancing, avoiding crowded, closed and close-contact settings, good ventilation, cleaning hands, covering sneezes and coughs, and more. Depending on the type, masks can be used for either protection of healthy persons or to prevent onward transmission.
Are N95 & KN95 masks reusable?
While you may be tempted to use your N95 mask repeatedly, especially after paying $3 or more for it, that is not something you should do. N95 masks are not reusable. The FDA explicitly states that N95 masks "should not be shared or reused." While there are decontamination methods, these are not something that the average person can use at home. To dispose of N95 masks, place them in a plastic sealed bag, put that in the trash and wash your hands. KN95 masks are not reusable either. After wearing the KN95 mask, you should discard it in a sealed plastic bag and then place it into the trash. Re-using either of these masks is not recommended. That being said, cloth face masks that you can wash are reusable yet highly less effective than KN95 or N95 masks. Ultimately they are suitable alternatives because they are better than no mask at all.
WHAT GUIDELINES SHOULD I FOLLOW TO MAKE WEARING AN N95 OR K95 MASK MOST EFFECTIVE?
In areas where the virus is circulating, masks should be worn when you’re in crowded settings. United States guidelines recommend at least 6 feet of space if possible. This also goes for rooms with poor or unknown ventilation. It’s not always easy to determine the quality of ventilation. Ventilation depends on the rate of air change, recirculation and outdoor fresh air. Thus, if you have any doubts, it’s safer to simply wear a mask.
- You should always clean your hands before and after using a mask, and before touching it while wearing it.
- While wearing a mask, you should still keep physical distance from others as much as possible. Wearing a mask does not mean you can have close contact with people.
- Masks are encouraged to be worn when in indoor public settings such as busy shopping centers, religious buildings and restaurants. In addition schools and public transport also require a mask more often than not. Lastly, you should wear a mask if you cannot maintain physical distance from others.
- If a visitor comes to your home who is not a member of the household, wear a mask if you cannot maintain a physical distance or the ventilation is poor.
- When outside, wear a mask if you cannot maintain physical distance from others. Some examples are busy markets, crowded streets and bus stops.
How Do I put on medical N95 or KN95 Mask?
- Before touching the mask, clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
- Inspect the mask for tears or holes; do not use a mask that has previously been worn or is damaged.
- Verify which side is the top – this is usually where the metal strip is.
- Place the mask on your face covering your nose, mouth and chin, making sure that there are no gaps between your face and the mask. Place the straps behind your head or ears. Do not cross the straps because this can cause gaps on the side of the mask.
- Pinch the metal strip so it molds to the shape of your nose.
- Remember, do not touch the front of the mask while using it to avoid contamination; if you accidentally touch it, clean your hands.
Who should wear what kind of mask?
Medical masks are recommended for:
- Health workers in clinical settings. Anyone who is feeling unwell, including people with mild symptoms, such as muscle aches, slight cough, sore throat or fatigue.
- Anyone awaiting COVID-19 test results or who has tested positive.
- People caring for someone who is a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 outside of health facilities.
Medical masks are also recommended for the following groups, because they are at a higher risk of becoming seriously ill with COVID-19 and dying:
- People aged 60 or over
- People of any age with underlying health conditions, including chronic respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, cancer, obesity, immunocompromised patients and diabetes mellitus.
- Non-medical, fabric masks can be used by the general public under the age of 60 and who do not have underlying health conditions.
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