Despite all our optimistic hopes of a speedy return to normal life, the COVID-19 crisis has changed our lives and will continue to change our habits for months, or even years, to come. But never give up hope! It is in our nature to adapt to new realities and push forward for a return to real life.
With the lockdown in the UK is being gradually eased, we face the risk of increases in the rate of infection or even a second peak. With this in mind it is essential that we take all possible precautions to ensure this does not happen; Working from home when possible, using barriers when at work and even the wearing of face masks. As the wearing of face masks becomes more common (when indoors in public or work places), choosing which one is best for you becomes more and more important which is why we have created this guide to aid you in making your choice. Please note that face masks have received some unfair criticism from certain sectors about their performance, we are not saying they are 100% effective at stopping airborne particles but they can be helpful in reducing the amount of particles you are exposed to at any given moment.
Types of Masks
There are three types of masks that have been recommended for us by the European Union; FFP masks, surgical masks and those recommended for the general public.
The FFP (filtering facepiece) mask is a type of protective face mask certified by the EU to protect the wearer from inhaling infectious agents or pollutants in the form of aerosols, droplets, or small solid particles. The mask itself has a half-face design that covers the mouth, nose and chin.
The FFP mask must meet certain standards and effectiveness tests. Without going into detail on the requirements of the EN149 standard to which they must meet, the FFP mask is a disposable mask and comes in three efficiency classes according to its degree of filtration: FFP1, FFP2, FFP3.
FFP1 - A dust mask that filters at least 78% of airborne particles.
FFP2 - An anti-virus mask (flu, avian flu, SARS-CoV, SARS-CoV-2), it filters at least 92% of airborne particles.
FFP3 - A mask designed to keep out very fine particles (such as asbestos, ceramic), it filters at least 98% of particles present in the air.
How long can you wear one before replacing it? This can vary between three and eight hours depending on the manufacturers recommendations and the environment in which it is used.
Highly effective in protecting against COVID-19, the FFP2 and FFP3 masks are generally reserved for nursing staff.
3-Ply Surgical Face Mask
The surgical face mask, also known as 3-ply face mask. It has been created to prevent infections in patients and healthcare personnel by catching bacteria shed in liquid droplets and aerosols from the user's mouth and/or nose. Originally used by healthcare professionals to avoid contaminating an operating room, it has now become popular with the general public, in particular thanks to its low acquisition cost.
Complying with standard EN14683, the surgical mask should not be used for longer than eight hours, it is even recommended that you change it after 4 hours of use. It should be discarded as soon as it is wet or soiled, in a dustbin equipped with a lid and plastic bag if possible.
Please note that in the European Economic Area (EEA), surgical masks have to be certified through the CE marking process in order to be commercialized. CE marking of surgical masks involves the respect of many obligations indicated in the Medical Device Regulation (Council Regulation 2017/745 of 5 April 2017 concerning medical devices, OJ No L 117/1 of 2017-05-05).
PM 2.5 Reusable Barrier Mask
This reusable mask has been created for use by the general public as an alternative to disposable face masks and has been created from washable fabric. It is recommended by most European countries including the French Government due to the shortage of surgical and FFP2 masks.
Consisting of 2 or 3 layers depending on the manufacturer, the barrier mask may not be certified or tested by a laboratory, it must nevertheless follow the manufacturing criteria present in the reference guide of the AFNOR standardization association. These specifications thus fix the size, the composition and the storage of the mask, it must for example filter at least 70% of the particles of 3 microns emitted by the user, while keeping good breathability. To view AFNOR specifications click here.
The maximum recommended duration of use is 4 hours. It can also consist of a disposable filter. As for its maintenance, the number of washes also varies depending on the model, which can range from 5 to 30 washes.
- The barrier mask cannot be used for protection against chemicals.
- The barrier mask should not be frozen. The viral agent is stored and at 4 ° C, it does not lose its infectious nature.
How to safely use your face mask
Before handling the mask, it is recommended to wash your hands. For optimal use (good sealing) it is advisable to wear the mask on bare skin.
- Place the mask on the face (mouth and nose covered as well as the chin)
- Check that the mask is correctly fitted, checking for tightness and difficulty in breathing.
Once adjusted, do not touch the mask with your hands. Each time the mask is touched, the user should wash their hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based solution.
To remove your mask safely it is recommended that you:
- Remove protective gloves if necessary.
- Wash your hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based solution.
- Remove the mask by gripping the elastics of the flange set from the back without touching the front part of the barrier mask.
- Place the mask in a specific container (clean plastic bag) to wash or dispose of it.
Wearing a mask has become mandatory in many work/travel situations and where not, it is highly recommended in order to reduce the risk of infection (yourself and others). Be that as it may, these masks are not a substitute for social distancing or other government recommendations and measures. Please always ensure you continue to follow all guidelines even when wearing a mask.
Stay safe 👊