It’s part of our new normal: Face masks, along with social distancing, are recommended for anyone leaving their home. In some places, you’re now required to wear a mask anytime you go out in public.
Three Main Mask Types
Understanding their characteristics is the key to selecting the right mask before you venture out.
Handmade or do-it-yourself masks may be created from almost any cloth, from bandanas, scarves, handkerchiefs to cut-up t-shirts. Tightly woven fabrics are best. Simply fold your material into layers and secure it behind your ears with hair elastics. If you have a sewing machine, find simple patterns online.
Disposable masks, commonly referred to as dusk masks or surgical masks, are made of paper with elastic bands or ties. Some include a nose piece that bends to provide a more secure fit. These are meant for one-time use.
Filtering/respirator masks can provide a higher level of protection from exposure to infectious illness. N95 and KN95 masks get their name from their ability to block at least 95% of particles in FDA tests.
How to Choose
Just like other healthcare items, each face mask has a specific purpose and use.
Are you a senior, a caregiver, or someone at risk? If so, you want a mask designed to help guard you against becoming ill.
- Select a disposable mask with a flexible nose strip for a close fit. Worn properly, this mask will filter the air coming into your nose and mouth plus reduce the exposure of your respiration to others. It’s important to note that disposable masks should not be re-used.
- Or choose a filtering/respirator mask which provides more protection. These products are often certified by the FDA or other official agency. And they may be re-used if cared for properly.
Are you mostly concerned with protecting yourself and others in social distancing situations?
- A disposable mask can be a convenient choice; some offer the reassurance of FDA registration.
- DIY fabric masks are also acceptable for basic protection. Be sure the mask covers your face snugly from above the nose to below the chin, and that you wear a fresh mask each time.
More About Staying Safe
Get more details on the important differences between surgical masks and filtering/respirator masks. Then read “How to Wear Your Face Mask” and “How Should I Care for My Masks?” for little-known facts about how to safely put them on, take them off and maintain your face masks.