N95 Respirator Fact Sheet

By Rebecca Israel and Charles Li, MD

April 07, 2020

  • N95 respirators are used to protect wearers from airborne particles and droplets.

  • They protect users from 95% of small airborne particles.

  • However, they are not recommended for use by the general public.

What is an N95 Respirator?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, N95 respirators have frequently been in the news.

These critical pieces of protective equipment have been hard to find for hospitals and healthcare workers in many areas.

They've also been highly sought after by some of the general public as well.

In this article, we detail what exactly is an N95 respirator, and whether you should wear one.

Why N95 Respirators Matter

N95 respirators look very similar to a face mask at first glance.

They fit over the nose and mouth just like a standard surgical face mask.

However, by definition, they also do a lot more to protect healthcare workers.

They capture at least 95% of airbone particles, keeping the wearer from breathing them in.

They can also filter away some viruses and bacteria.

N95 Respirator Fact Sheet

How N95 respirators differ from face masks

N95 Respirators vs Face Masks

Face masks are generally not designed to filter incoming air, since air can enter and exit around the edges of the mask.

Instead, they are used to prevent droplets and splashes from reaching the wearer, and prevent the wearer from infecting others.

When you cough or sneeze, you can spray out droplets containing viruses and bacteria. If you wear a mask, these can get captured before reaching another individual.

N95 respirators, on the other hand, fit closely to the face and ensure that the incoming air gets filtered.

They can be more cumbersome and they need to be specially fitted for each wearer in order to be effective.

N95 respirators are not recommended for use by the general public.

Social distancing and cloth face masks should provide sufficient protection for individuals out of the hospital.

Additionally, they are urgently needed for healthcare workers who see COVID-19 patients and other infectious patients on a regular basis.

What is an N95 respirator?

Source: FDA

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