Medical PPE and mask use is recommended for:
- Health workers in clinical settings. See the WHO guidance for more information on mask use by health care workers.
- 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.
Types of Covid PPE and mask use
Non-medical, fabric masks can be used by the general public under the age of 60 and who do not have underlying health conditions.
Fabric or cloth masks trap droplets that are released when the person wearing the mask sneezes, coughs or talks. They reduce the spread of viruses, are easy to purchase or make, and can be washed and worn again. It’s also important for the wearer to avoid touching their masks, and if they do, to sanitize or wash their hands after. Additionally, if a cloth or fabric mask becomes wet or dirty, it’s important to switch to a clean one. These masks should not be shared.
Surgical masks — also called medical masks — are loose-fitting and disposable. They protect the nose and mouth from coming into contact with droplets that could carry germs. They’re made to protect you from sprays or splashes that could enter the nose or mouth. These masks are also able to filter out large particles in the air, and can make sure droplets from the wearer aren’t being spread. These masks are single use only.
N95 masks provide a higher degree of protection than a surgical mask or cloth mask because they can filter out both large and small particles when the wearer breathes. They’re called N95 masks because they’re designed to block 95% of particles or liquids that may come in contact with your face. However, these masks are not for general public use and should be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders. They’re also incompatible with children or people with facial hair. Healthcare providers are fit tested for these masks, and like surgical masks, they’re intended to be single-use only, though researchers are examining effective ways to clean these masks.
Face masks with valves:
These masks may make it easier to breathe out, but as the wearer is doing so, they’re also exhaling their germs into the air around them. Increasingly more medical facilities around the country have banned the use of masks with valves. They do a good job protecting the wearer, but because of the one-way valves, they don’t offer much protection to the people around the wearer. If the wearer is contagious, either knowingly or unknowingly, they could still be spreading the virus to others around them. Since the main reason to wear a mask is to protect others, a simpler mask with a filter may be a better choice.
Left to right = 1 to 4
- Fabric / Cloth Mask
- Surgical Mask
- N95 Mask
- Face Mask With Valves
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