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The Omicron coronavirus, a highly infectious variant of coronavirus, is staring us in our faces. We have two options: Stay indoors or go masked. Not any mask will work. The coronavirus can't be blocked by any mask, handkerchief, or silk mask. An N95 or KN95 non-woven mask is the best way to block it. It should be topped with a second layer. Here is some information about this important accessory if you have to go out immediately.

What is an N95 respirator, you ask?

An N95 respirator protects your nose from harmful particles by effectively filtering them out. The device's edges have a seal that can be adjusted to fit snugly around the nose. This prevents air from escaping. The N95 mask's filters trap particulate matter, bacteria, and viruses. The multilayered polypropylene fiber walls remove 95 percent of the 0.3-micron particles in the air through this process. The '95' is for non-oil, which refers to the mask's ability to filter particles that are not oil-based.

Where and when should it be worn?

Consider wearing an N95 mask with no valves if you are in a closed environment such as hospitals or crowded areas. The Ministry of Health & Family Welfare in India warns against using N95 masks that have breathing valves. The exhalation of air from breathing valves can cause infection in those around you. These respirators can be worn in public places like parks and malls, where exhaled particles can quickly disperse.

What is the difference between a cloth, surgical, or KN95 mask using N95?

  1. Cloth masks provide very limited protection against the coronavirus.

  2. The surgical masks are similar to those used by medical personnel and are made to protect the wearer against liquid splashes and large-particle drops. Their material and design are not effective against small particles such as the coronavirus. This virus is transmitted through breathing, coughing, or sneezing. They also don't block the air you exhale. A surgical mask alone could expose you to the risk of being exposed.

  3. The KN95 mask in India is often mislabeled as the N95. However, the difference lies in their country certification. The US-based National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health approves N95. KN95 is a Chinese certification. The European certification is FFP2. They all offer similar protection against coronavirus.

  4. Experts recommend double-masking because none of these masks provide 100% protection. A snug-fitting N95 mask or equivalent should be worn first. Then, a three-layered surgical mask should be used on top.
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