Face masks are designed to create a physical barrier between the mouth and nose of the wearer, which, in turn, helps protect the wearer against inhaling, either through the nose or mouth, tiny droplets and other airborne contaminants that can come out when an ill person sneezes or coughs into the immediate environment.
On the other hand, if you are the individual who is sick, you may also wear a face mask in order to prevent others from getting sick as a result of escaped droplets and other contaminants you sneeze or cough into the air.
There are various types of face masks, each with different thickness and filtration abilities, as well as material bases and fit, which makes some masks best suited for use in some situations but not in others, and they are also made by different manufacturers across the world, which sometimes also affects their effectiveness.
However, two of the most common face masks today are probably N95 masks and KN95 masks, both also known as face filtering respirators (FFP), which are most commonly used in the healthcare industry and have probably become most notable during the current COVID-19 virus outbreak, but what is the KN95 vs N95 mask?
KN95 vs N95 Mask: About N95 Masks
N95 masks are personal protective facial masks that are regulated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
If fitted properly, N95 facial mask has the filtration capability to block at least 95 percent of 0.3-micron particles, which are some of the hardest particles to capture due to their very small size. However, because the mask only blocks up to 95 percent of tiny micron particles, even if it is fitted properly, it does not completely eliminate the risk of sickness or mortality.
The N100 mask and the P100 mask are the only masks with a higher rating, which are capable of blocking 99.97 percent of 0.3 micron-sized particles. Unfortunately, there are no 100 percent filtration masks available.
N95 masks used in the healthcare industry are known as Class II devices and are regulated by the FDA under section 21 CFR 878.4440 and the CDC NIOSH under 42 CFR Part 84. N95 masks used for this industry are tested for fluid resistance, filtration efficiency, including bacterial and particular filtration efficiency, flammability, and biocompatibility.
These masks are designed so that they form a tight fit around the nose and mouth when placed on the face, which provides optimum protection; however, to maintain efficacy, they should not be shared or used more than once. In fact, all FDA-approved N95 masks include a “single-use” warning.
In the meantime, if the mask is damaged or becomes dirty, it should also be discarded. If it becomes hard to breathe while wearing the N95 mask, the FDA also recommends discarding the mask and replacing it with a new one.
These masks are also not recommended for individuals with facial hair or children with smaller facial features because it will prevent the mask from fitting properly, which means, they will not be provided full protection, and thereby left susceptible to contamination.
All N95 masks should also be safely discarded in order to help prevent the spread of disease.
KN95 vs N95 Mask: About KN95 Masks
KN95 masks are similar to N95 masks; however, they are regulated by the Chinese government. In fact, the KN95 mask is simply the Chinese code for the U.S. coded N95 mask; however, it does vary slightly in the maximum pressure it must be able to bear when the wearer breathes in and out as compared to the N95 mask, as well as a few other slight differences in specifications.
However, like N95 masks, KN95 masks also filter 95% of 0.3 micron-sized particulates. They are also designed to achieve a very close facial fit for optimum protection.
In most cases, KN95 masks are authorized by the Centers for Disease Control for use in the U.S. as a suitable alternative when the supply of N95 masks is low . However, they are only eligible for approval by the F.D.A. after meeting certain criteria, including proof of authenticity, certificates of safety, and lab reports.
KN95 vs N95 Mask Testing
Both KN95 masks and N95 masks are held to various regulatory standards throughout the world, as are all other countries’ filtering facepiece respirators.
These standards spell out the physical properties required, as well as the performance qualities the masks must meet, in order for them to be deemed compliant with the said standards. In emergency situations, such as a pandemic, health authorities refer to these standards when recommending respirator masks.
Many filtering facepiece respirators share similar regulatory standards, which means they undergo similar lab testing and respirator rating, with the most common test and rating being the effectiveness of its ability to filter specific particles. Hence, you can presume respirators that have been certified to meet the stated standards for performance and compliance function comparably to each other.
For instance, because they share similar standard requirements, both the US NIOSH N95 mask and China’s KN95 mask can be expected to capture 95 percent of 0.3-micron particles, and they are both also designed to fit tightly around the face. They may also provide similar protection against oil-free particles in the air.
There are also other similar respirator class masks in various other countries, such as Europe’s FFP2 mask, Brazil’s P2 mask, and Australia’s P2 mask, which all have a filtration efficiency of between 94 to 95 percent.
KN95 vs N95 Mask for Public Use
Both N95 masks and KN95 masks are not recommended by the Center for Disease Control for use by the general public. Instead, the CDC recommends they should only be used by healthcare workers and medical first responders, as they are critical supplies that must be reserved for such occupations to help protect against sick patients in their care, especially during the current COVID-19 outbreak when N95 masks are running low.
However, they are available in some stores and online for purchase by the general public. But as of current, the CDC has placed certain restrictions on the public’s purchase of N95 face respirators from any store and, in many cases, have also begun seizing the masks once they are purchased by members of the public to help ensure there is an adequate supply for healthcare workers who are at higher risk of disease transmission from treating patients with COVID-19.
In fact, medical experts warn that just one infection among healthcare workers could increase rapidly among other workers and, in some cases, even result in numerous fatalities, which can quickly cause a shortage of healthcare workers, thus resulting in a large number of incoming sick patients being denied treatment at the medical facility.
Furthermore, the U.S. Surgeon General fears that the public use of masks could actually increase the spread of COVID-19 because the wearers are not trained in the proper way to wear the mask, as well as how to safely remove and discard it once it has been used. There is also fear that the wearer may accidentally touch the outside of the mask while wearing it and then touch their face, which can cause them to become infected.
As for rather or not KN95 masks are available for purchase by the general public, it is not clear if the CDC has any restrictions regarding that. However, should you choose to purchase an imported KN95 vs N95 mask, you should know that there has been an issue with authenticity regarding imported face masks; therefore, be sure to do your research before purchasing the mask from your chosen company. There has also been an issue with price gouging by some foreign companies, so beware.
In the meantime, the CDC does recommend that the members of the general public wear a protective mask while in public settings; however, they recommend wearing a simple face-mask made of cloth instead to help protect others from getting sick.
KN95 vs N95 Mask Proper Way to Use to Protect Against Infectious Diseases
When it comes to the KN95 vs N95 mask, both masks require the proper use in order to be most effective and given that they are both designed according to similar standards, and for similar use, the same following rules apply for both when using the mask. In fact, these rules apply when wearing any type of face mask.
- First, wash your hands with soap and water, or if you do not have soap and water, apply an alcohol-based hand rub all over your hands and fingers and allow it to dry.
- Place the mask on your face, careful to ensure it fully covers your nose and mouth. There should also be no spaces or gaps between the mask and your face to ensure a tight fit and maximum protection. If you are using a cloth mask, use at least two layers of fabric and be sure it fits tightly against the sides of the face.
- Once the mask is securely on your face, be careful not to touch or fidget with the front of the mask because it could cause contamination. If you forget and touch the mask, quickly wash your hands with soap and water or sanitize them with an alcohol-based hand product.
- As stated earlier, the FDA warns, once the mask becomes soiled, torn, or damaged, it is time to replace it with a new one.
- You should also remember, disposable face masks are only designed for single use; therefore, once you have worn the mask once, safely discard it and replace it with a new one. However, if you have a cloth face mask, you can simply use a washing machine to clean it after each use.
- To remove the mask, avoid touching the front of the mask, as well as your eyes, nose, and mouth, and instead grab the mask by the sidebands. If you are using a disposable mask, once the mask is removed from your face, place it in a plastic bag and then discard it in a closed trash bin and then use soap and water to wash your hands or apply hand sanitizer to your hands. If you are using a cloth mask, simply remove the mask and then place it in the washer and then wash your hands with soap and water or apply hand sanitizer.
- To help protect the condition of your face masks, so they can function properly, they should be stored in a breathable bag, preferably the original bag they came in, until ready for use. They should also be stored in a clean air environment where they can’t be crushed or bent out of shape and away from direct sunlight. The environment where they are stored should also be maintained at the suggested humidity level and temperature range specified on the package. Your face masks should also not be used past the shelf life specified on the package in order to main efficacy.
KN95 vs N95 masks simply comes down to the country of origin. And though they do have some dissimilar specifications, they are both still approved for use as personal protective equipment to safeguard the wearer from contaminating airborne particles and liquids that may enter the nose, eyes, and mouth.
However, N95 masks are most often only recommended for healthcare workers during emergency situations, such as a pandemic, to help protect the patient and the healthcare worker from the transfer of bacteria, body fluids, and hazardous particles suspended in the air, whereas KN85 masks may not. Just remember, should you choose to purchase imported face masks, they do come with some risks, so be sure to do your research first to ensure maximum protection.
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