Dr. Koralla Raja Meghanadh
Types of COVID-19 Masks
Updated: Nov 24, 2022
Understand which mask best suits your need.
We have four COVID-19 masks in the market cloth, surgical, N95, and P100 masks that give up to 60, 80, 95, and 99 percent protection against COVID-19. These percentages can decrease if it doesn’t fit properly. Understanding the types of COVID-19 masks will equip you to decide which is the best mask for you.
Cheapest, washable, and unsafe with up to 60% protection
The thread used in making cloth masks should be as thin as possible or in the high count, and woven holes must be as small as possible. If the cloth is thick, then the mask could be useless, as it doesn’t allow the air to escape through the holes in the fabric. Air will end up running from the sides instead of through the mask. So the air you breathe is not being filtered, exposing you to viruses and bacteria.
Cloth masks can be the cheapest. Cloth masks are unsafe for COVID-19 protection irrespective of brand, number of layers, adjustability, reusability, and breathability. Cloth masks are not the best masks in the lot.
An economical disposable mask that offers minimum protection of up to 80% for short use
Surgical masks come in three, five and, seven layers, with one of the layers being a high-efficiency particulate air filter(HEPA). The HEPA filter has minute holes of 0.3 microns. This material is stitched to create folds to increase the surface area of the filtration, reducing airflow resistance and improving comfort in breathing. The direction of these folds must be downwards when you put on the mask. Overuse or washing the mask will distort the 0.3-micron pores of the Filter, making it inefficient.
This mask is a one-time use disposable mask with a life of 4 hours at the max. They give minimum protection despite having a HEPA layer due to their fit. We must understand that a surgical mask is designed to protect a patient from bacteria, virus, or saliva that can pass from a doctor to a patient on the table but not the doctors. You will not be spreading the virus by wearing a surgical mask, but there is a risk of being on the receiving end. A surgical mask might not be the best mask for COVID 19, but better than a cloth mask.
Value for money with up to 95% percent protection making it the best mask for an average person.
N95 masks also have multiple layers with one or two layers of HEPA filter. Polymer is blown into a negative pressure chamber to make the HEPA filter, and negative pressure defines the size of pores in the HEPA filter. The HEPA filter sheet or sheets have other supporting layers, unlike surgical masks, increasing the efficiency and durability.
N95 are highly safe and reusable masks. N95 gives you the best value for money and is the best mask for an average person if it fits appropriately. If used continuously for 8 to 12 hours, you can reuse the mask after a gap of 5 or 6 days. If you work during these pandemic times, have one mask for each working day in a week and rotate them. Store these masks individually in a newspaper bag with the day of the week written on it for easy tracking. You can also store it between newspaper layers. If using it for few hours, you can use the mask for 5 to 6 days and reuse it after 4 days. Do not wash it or store it in sunlight.
A pricey, slightly uncomfortable 99% efficient mask that is a must for risky ones.
The P100 mask has a PVC frame that seals 99% of the air and a set of two replaceable filters that filter the air. The filtration material is a large sheet compressed into frills supported by a polymer sheet framework. On experiencing difficulty in breathing, we can replace these filters. The filters generally work for 30 days but can vary as per dust in the environment.
These are the safest and costliest masks available in the market. People with high exposure to the COVID virus and high-risk people with a medical condition can go for P100. P100 is the best mask for Health workers working with COVID patients, pregnant women, cancer patients, patients on dialysis, patients with organ transplants.
Follow this link for more details about the mask that Dr. K. R. Meghanadh uses.
You can buy these masks and their filters online from e-commerce websites like Amazon.
NOTE: This is not any recommendation. There are many more types of P100 masks. This particular one happens to be the one that Dr. K. R. Meghanadh uses. He bought this P100 mask during India's first wave of COVID-19 when there was a huge shortage of masks. Please browse through other options available and select one that suits you best. We had feedback asking us to give more details about P100, so we are just providing a link to learn more about P100 respirators.
Our job does not end with the selection of a mask. Make sure to wear a mask that fits properly.