Surgical Masks vs. N95 Respirators: What You Need to Know

Surgical Masks vs. N95 Respirators: What You Need to Know

With the Covid-19 pandemic pressing on and cases surging, many municipalities are implementing or re-implementing mandates for face masks. Seemingly everywhere we go these days requires a mask for entry or service. This is for good reason, as scientific studies have repeatedly shown that wearing surgical masks or N95 respirators saves lives.
You have probably heard of and seen both types of masking technology at this point and may be wondering what to choose for yourself. Today, we are going to give you an overview of surgical masks and N95 respirators and give you the scoop on each of these types of personal protection equipment (PPE).
Let’s start with surgical masks. First, we would like to be clear that surgical masks are not N95 respirators. Surgical masks are not intended to replace this technology. A surgical mask is primarily intended to protect others from the particles that you exhale, sneeze or cough out. They block these larger particles from becoming airborne and infecting others with any illnesses you may have.
Surgical masks, such as the quality masks produced by RDI Medical, consist of 3 layers of protective polypropylene, with the middle layer being designed to offer a level of filtration for larger particles. They also have a metal nose bridge piece to help fit the mask more snugly against the wearer’s face. Originally, these masks were designed to protect patient’s from being exposed to the germs of staff during medical procedures. These masks are now being worn by the general public to protect others from your germs. The saying, “My mask protects you. Your mask protects me,” applies here.
N95 respirators come in a variety of shapes and sizes and are designed to protect the wearer from airborne particles expelled by others. These respirators are not recommended for use by the general public, and are appropriate for frontline medical professionals. These types of masks should be reserved for those who are dealing highly contagious illnesses on a daily basis.
N95 Mask vs Surgical Mask vs N95 Respirator
When it comes to N95 respirators, there are both disposable and reusable styles. Disposable N95 masks can have a valve or be non-valved. It is important to note that valved styles allow particles from the wearer to be expelled into the air, whereas non-valved styles filter those particles from those around you.
Reusable N95 respirators are also suitable for those working directly with individuals with contagious illnesses such as Covid-19. They offer the advantage of interchangeable filters that can block nearly 100% of dangerous, disease causing particles as well as being able to be decontaminated and reused. They do not offer dual protection, which is protection for you and others, as they have exhaust valves. All N95 respirators should be fit tested to assure that they are offering full protection.
In summary, both surgical masks and N95 respirators offer the wearer and those around them varying degrees of protection from infectious diseases like Covid-19. It is important to select the best solution for your situation. Frontline medical workers should opt for N95 respirators when at all possible. To leave a healthy supply of N95 masks for the frontline workers, surgical masks are recommended for the general public’s daily wear.
We hope that this guide helps you choose the best face masks for your comfort and protection.