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.
How N95 respirators differ from 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.