‘Do NOT wear N95’: CDC just schooled us on how to wear a mask

How to wear a mask How to wear a mask (Image: Gerd Altmann from Pixabay)

Many have been investing in sophisticated N95 masks for increased protection from COVID-19. But the CDC explains why those are not only unnecessary but also risky.

Should you or shouldn’t you use the N95 mask? CDC has you covered. Remember the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic when we had zero knowledge on how to choose a mask? We scampered around looking for the most sophisticated ones. The more bells and whistles the mask had, the better it was.

But with time, did better sense prevail? I still see many mugs with N95s on, looking like they were out battling a nuclear fallout.

And now, CDC — aka Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the uninitiated — has given us all a masterclass in how to select, wear and clean the mask.

Among its top recommendation for selecting a mask is ” Do NOT wear masks intended for healthcare workers, for example, N95 respirators.” Getting dads to stay indoors during the pandemic: An exercise in futility

Self-explanatory? No?

What’s an N95 face mask?

An N95 respirator is a mask that filters at least 95% of particles as small as 0.3 micros. They are, hence, capable of filtering bacteria and viruses.

These marks fit snugly on to your face, forming a seal around the nose and mouth. Like surgical masks, they should not be shared or reused. And unlike them, they can filter out at least 95% of the airborne particles.

If it’s that efficient, why would CDC advise against the use of N95 mask? Let’s list the reasons. What is Long COVID & and who is at risk?

  • It makes breathing more difficult and is especially risky for people with chronic respiratory, cardiac or other medical conditions.
  • If it has a one-way valve, it can only filter the air coming in. Not air going out of your mouth, putting everyone around you at risk.
  • If you have facial hair, the mask cannot fit tightly around your face, putting you at risk.
  • N95 masks are not made for children since it can’t be fitted properly on their face.
  • N95 masks are reserved for frontline workers and first responders. The general public can use regular surgical masks and not create a shortage of valuable protective gear.

The organisation recommends that you use marks that have two or more layers for better filtration. CDC also prohibits children under age two, people with breathing trouble and those who can’t remove the mask without assistance. “I travelled 1,500 km with my baby to join India’s fight against COVID-19”

Here are some cool infographics from the CDC on mask-wearing:

How to choose a mask
How to choose a mask (Image: CDC)
How to not wear a mask
Do not wear a mask like this (Image: CDC)
How to take off a mask
A step-by-step method to take off your mask (Image: CDC)

An increasing number of people have been using face shields and gaiters in place of masks. The CDC has advised against using just face shields without the masks. The organisation also has said it’s still in the process of testing the effectiveness of gaiters and face shields on their own. Till then my friends, a good surgical mask is the way to go!