Disposable Face Masks, what offers the best protection

Disposable Face Masks, what offers the best protection

Face Masks and Respiratory Protection – What You Need to Know. Face coverings are now a widely used item in our day to day lives, and while we still live with the highly virulent strains of Covid-19 in the community, will continue to be. Currently, face coverings are not mandatory except in the following situations (HSE 27 Feb 2022)

Wear a medical mask or respirator mask if you are:

  • At higher risk of contracting Covid-19 in indoor or crowded outdoor spaces
  • Visiting a healthcare setting
  • Visiting someone at higher risk of Covid-19
  • Stopping self-isolation after 7 days – wear a face mask for 10 days in total

What Are The Types of Masks

There are predominantly three types of face coverings in common use  in Ireland at the moment.

Fabric Face Covering – These cannot be called face masks as most are made to a general design, but no official safety standards. They are effective in blocking large droplets leaving the wearer’s face, but are not considered a medically proven barrier to contracting illness. These are inexpensive and re-usable, although they should be washed frequently and filters replaced regularly.

Medical Masks – These masks are commonly seen in medical practice. They are usually white on the inside and blue on the outside and are made of 3 layers of light, paper like material. Commonly referred to as surgical masks, they are single use items and should be disposed of after each wear. Public health advice states that these masks are capable of protecting others from the wearers droplets, but less effective at protecting the wearer from others.

Respirator Masks – Respirator masks often have 4 layers of light, paper-like material. They are usually white on the inside and the outside.FFP2, FFP3, N95 and KN95 are all types of respirator masks. They are all very similar. Do not use respirator masks with valves. Respirator masks are the most effective face masks to protect the wearer from droplets in the immediate environment. They are slightly more expensive than medical masks, but offer higher infection control.

How to Wear Your Mask

While face coverings are not currently compulsory in most settings in Ireland, it is advisable to use them in situations where people are close together, such as public transport. It is also important to be aware that the way in which we use masks has an impact on their efficacy.

Masks should cover the entire mouth and nose openings, and be snug to the face at the outer edges. All face masks should be removed by unhooking the ear loops, and not by holding the front of the mask. Disposable masks should be carefully disposed of after each use, followed by thorough hand washing.