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FFP2 (N95) vs FFP3 (N99) vs Surgical Masks

4th May 2020

Ever since the novel coronavirus outbreak, the use of face masks has been common in public places by the general population around the world. With the continuous increase in the number of COVD-19 positive cases, health experts recommended social distancing, frequent hand washing, and the use of face masks.

It is believed that many patients who are asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic can spread the virus to others before showing signs of symptoms. Therefore, it’s possible for the virus to spread among individuals who are interacting in close proximity even if they don’t show any symptoms.

Because of this, the public is advised to wear face masks when in a public setting where social distancing isn’t easy to maintain, such as grocery stores or public transportation. There are many types of masks that are helpful in preventing the spread of coronavirus, including surgical masks, N95 respirators, N99 masks. If you don't have these available, it is recommended that you fashion your own mask using cloth. These masks provide varying levels of protection against the spread of the virus. All types are more effective than not wearing a mask at all.

For more information, we’ve provided a few important points that you’d want to know about each type of mask.

Homemade Cloth Masks

While the WHO and the CDC recommend masks for people who venture out into the public, they do not specify that you should wear ones that have high filtration. Any face covering is better than none, and simple cloth masks can be helpful in preventing the spread of coronavirus. You can find a guide for making a homemade face mask here.

Homemade cloth face masks provide the least amount of protection for all the masks discussed here, but a higher level of protection than not wearing a mask at all. They consist of masks that are made of cloth, such as a scarf, handkerchief or other type of cloth that covers your nose and mouth. Wear this type of mask when you haven't any other higher filtration masks available to you.

If you are engaged in social distancing as you walk outdoors in areas where there are not many people, cloth masks should be sufficient in protecting your health and preventing the spread of coronavirus.

Surgical masks

A surgical mask is a disposable mask that can protect you against infectious agents that are transmitted through respiratory droplets, which can be in the form of saliva or any respiratory secretions. Have you ever breathed on a window and saw vapor condense into water droplets? This is the type of moisture found in the air we breathe out that allows the coronavirus to spread from person to person.

If you wear a mask and unknowningly have the virus (because you're asymptomatic), you are protecting those around you while avoiding the contamination of surfaces, equipment, and other places where a virus can survive. If the surgical mask is worn by a person who is sick, he or she is less likely to spread infection. Surgical masks are generally cheaper than other types of masks. Here at UK Meds, we sell them as disposable masks in packs of 100. They are less expensive, but also do not provide the level of filtration that N95 and N99 masks provide.

Surgical masks are sufficient when you are going into areas that are less likely to be contaminated, such as walking outdoors or standing in areas where you know people will practice proper social distancing. You may find them easier to breathe through if you are having problems breathing in FFP2 or FFP3 masks.

Surgical masks need to be disposed of properly after use. How long you can use the masks range from three to eight hours depending on various external factors and the concentration of the contaminant. While no mask provides complete 100% protection, surgical masks offer a lesser amount of filtration than provided by N95 and N99 masks (which provide 95% and 99% filtration of particles, respectively).

N95 respirators (FFP2 masks)

An N95 respirator (also called an FFP2 mask) is a piece of personal protective equipment that is effective at protecting the wearer from aerosols, gases, or vapors that could be hazardous to the health. The "95" in N-95 mask represents the 95% filtration it has of particles that are the size of respiration droplets, such as carry the coronavirus. They also happen to provide effective protection against viruses like H1N1 and SARS, which are also transported in respiratory droplets.

N95 respirators will fit your face more snugly than homemade masks or surgical masks. They often have a metal band that you can fold around the shape of your nose, creating a tighter seal that more adequately filtrates airborne particles. Respiratory droplets containing the coronavirus are less likely to leak in around the side when you wear an N95 mask.

N95 masks, also called FFP2 masks, are sufficient for filtering the air you breathe in indoor settings, such as when you go grocery shopping. If you will be in areas where people sometimes do not maintain their social distancing, N95 masks will also be helpful. This is the type of respirator that many hospitals use to keep their doctors and nurses healthy around sick individuals who are potentially infected with coronavirus.

N99 or FFP3 masks

N99 face masks can filter out up to 99% of the particles in the air that the wearer breathes in. If you want the best face filter that is affordable, consider getting an FFP3 mask, also called an N99 mask.

This type of mask is suitable for a doctor to wear when treating people who are infected with coronavirus. They will also protect you if you are in situations where practising social distancing is not always possible, such as elevators or public transit. If you will be in crowded situations, indoors in areas where you believe people may be infected, a FFP3/N95 mask is an excellent choice.

When it comes to choosing what kind of face mask to use, whether it is a surgical mask, N95 respirator, or N99 mask, you need to consider several factors.

  • Indoors or outdoors?
  • Are people practicing social distancing?
  • How long will you be in that environment?
  • Are you being exposed to many new faces, or a small group of people? (such as in a work environment with co workers)
  • How comfortable are you breathing?
  • Are the respirators affordable and within your budget?

Get the face mask that provides the level of filtration you are satisfied, is comfortable to wear and within a price range that is in your budget.