How long can you wear the PFF2 mask, according to experts

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You’re ready to swap your old cloth masks for PFF2, as some experts recommend, but the higher price tag and two little words – “single use” – are leading to hesitation. How long can you really wear a PFF2 and still protect yourself and others from the risk of Covid-19?

“I wear mine for a week,” said Linsey Marr, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech.

The material and filterability of a PFF2 mask “is not going to degrade unless you physically rub it or poke holes in it,” Linsey said. “You’d have to be in really polluted air… for several days before it lost its ability to filter out particles. So you can really wear them for a long time,” he said.

“People have been talking about 40 hours – I think it’s okay. Really, it’s going to look gross on your face or the straps are going to be too loose or maybe they’re going to go bad before there’s a loss of filtering ability,” she added.

The reason PFF2 masks are designated as single-use masks is because they are categorized as medical masks, said Erin Bromage, an associate professor of biology at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.

In medical settings, healthcare workers change masks more frequently to avoid “contaminating the patient room with equipment used in one room of an infected person and then moving on to the next room and bringing that infection with you,” he said. “When you take a single-use medical article and put it out to the general public, we’re not worried about cross-contamination from different environments you’re in. It’s really about providing you with protection.”

PFF2 masks “used to only cost $1 or more each,” Erin added, but prices have increased recently as public demand for these masks has increased amid concerns over the Ômicron variant.

If you re-use these masks safely, you’re getting at least two or three days of use, Erin added, but “I realize it’s still an expense.”

Some local public health departments, such as the Maryland and Milwaukee health departments, are offering free PFF2 masks.

Check out what else you should know about safely using and reusing PFF2 masks.

Why use PFF2 (or N95)?

Compared to cloth masks, properly fitted PFF2 masks prevent tiny particles from entering the nose or mouth thanks to specific materials – such as polypropylene fibers – that act as mechanical and electrostatic barriers to shared air, the main factor in infection. by coronavirus.

The difference between the N95 and KN95 masks is where the mask is certified, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health. The United States certifies the N95s, while China approves the KN95s.

About 60% of KN95 respirators sold in the United States are counterfeit and do not meet National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health requirements, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“If they are made to the standard and certified by the appropriate councils in your country, like NIOSH here, they all basically do the same thing,” Erin told CNN. “But there are a ton of knockoffs that aren’t certified on the KN95 side, that might meet the standards but aren’t certified to meet that. And there are others that clearly don’t.”

N95 masks “are not made for kids,” Linsey said. “For bigger kids, my 10 year old uses an N95 that comes in a small size (intended for adults).”

“If you see an N95 marketed to kids, that should raise a red flag,” Linsey added. “There will be KN95 and KF94 that are designed and marketed for children. With them, it’s the same issue we discussed for adults, which is making sure you get them from a reputable and reputable source, because there’s a problem with fake KN95s that aren’t as protective as they should be.”

Project N95, the National Clearinghouse working to provide equitable access to personal protective equipment and Covid-19 testing, is a trusted source for N95 and KN95 masks, Linsey said. KF94s are Korean pattern masks.

“Certainly, for children, a KN95 or KF94 will provide better protection, on average, than a surgical mask or cloth mask,” Linsey said.

You may have to try a few different brands or shapes of KN95, KF94 or small N95 to find one that fits well and is comfortable for your child, Linsey said.

If you’re still having trouble fitting the mask to your child’s face, you can either tie off the ear hooks or use cord-lock buttons or adjusters to ensure the mask fits well enough, she suggested. This CDC video on the knot and bend method may also help.

Basic care helps prevent respiratory diseases

To reuse PFF2 masks as safely as possible, avoid touching the front exterior when putting them on, Linsey said. Instead, try handling it by its edges or handles. “Definitely avoid the part right in front of where you breathe, as well as right in front of your nose and mouth,” she added.

Even after using a PFF2 in a crowded indoor environment – ​​such as a subway – Linsey said that “these masks are really designed to handle a lot of particles and will continue to work.”

However, a known exposure should affect your approach. If “I was working in an office and I was using an N95 and someone in my office had tested positive, I would know I was well protected,” Erin said. “But I would probably throw away that mask. Because this mask has done its job of trapping the virus and I don’t even want to risk it being there and getting into my hands or something.”

It is possible that you have unknowingly been close to an infected person in any other public space – such as a subway or supermarket – while wearing a PFF2 mask. Staying at least 1.5 meters away from others can help reduce your risk of Covid-19.

If the mask becomes damp, visibly soiled, creased, creased, or otherwise damaged — including from wearing makeup — you need to replace it, as these conditions can decrease the mask’s effectiveness, Linsey and Erin said.

“The more you wear it, the more the breathing capacity and resistance of the mask starts to decrease,” Erin said. “One of the first indicators of switching if it’s nice and clean is that it feels a little harder to breathe. There seems to be more resistance with every breath.”

The longer and more often you wear a PFF2 mask, the more contaminated it can become. But the particles will die off over the course of a few or several hours, Linsey said, and even faster if you leave the face covering exposed to sunlight for a while.

“Factors like temperature and sunlight have an effect, but you don’t want to put it in an oven or microwave,” Erin said. “I used to put mine on the dashboard of my car in the summer, and that would do more than enough for the heat and direct light it was getting. But in reality, there is nothing you can do to extend its lifespan through cleaning that is affordable for the average person.”

Because PFF2 masks have this special static charge that helps filter out viruses, you shouldn’t wash the masks, as water will dissipate the charge, Linsey said.

Overall, the risk of contamination from reusing PFF2 masks is “less, much less, than the risk of you not wearing an N95 and breathing in particulate matter,” Linsey said. “I don’t want people to avoid using an N95 because they are worried about contamination on an N95. The mask will provide a great benefit.”

Reference: CNN Brasil

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