No one expected to see the mandatory use of face masks to visit the shops or hop on a bus in 2020.
But, thanks to the Coronavirus pandemic, they’re now part of everyday life and the focus of debate about how effective they really are at protecting us from getting Covid 19.
This is particularly critical for anyone who is vulnerable or works with at risk groups such as the sick or elderly. Relying on the most common surgical face masks or fabric coverings may help to protect others from any infection you’re carrying but aren’t going to guarantee your protection from airborne infections spread by others.
So if you work in an environment with a higher risk of transmission or simply wish to protect yourself or those close to you who may be more vulnerable to Covid, here’s our guide to ensure you’re informed about the best face masks for Covid and Coronavirus protection.
TYPES OF FACE MASK
A surgical mask is a single use disposable type of personal protective equipment (PPE) designed to prevent the wearer from spreading any infection they possess into the surrounding environment via droplets of saliva or fluids from the respiratory system when the wearer coughs, sneezes or simply exhales.
Therefore, surgical masks are not designed to protect the wearer from inhaling infectious airborne droplets including those can spread infectious agents such as Coronavirus.
Surgical masks are tested against the British Standard BS EN 14683 which measures the filtration of bacterial particles in the direction of exhalation from inside to outside. Masks that meet these standards are graded in three levels starting at BFE1 offering up to 95% filtering effectiveness, then BFE2 which is up to 98% effective and Type R which is also up 98% effective but also splash resistant.
Respirator face masks are available in disposable or re-usable versions and offer a higher level of protection against inhaling potentially harmful particles, vapors or gases. This improved level of filtration is what offers protection for the wearer from inhaling airborne infectious agents such as flu and viruses which is verified by the British Standard BS EN 149.
For any mask to comply with this standard it must pass strict testing which focuses on the efficiency of filtration and leakage levels in the direction of inspiration from outside to inside the mask.
Respirators that meet this standard of filtration can be identified under three classifications known as FFP1, FFP2 and FFP3. The main difference between them is the level of filtration they offer with FFP1 masks filtering at least 80% of airborne particles, FFP2 at least 94% and FFP3 99%. It’s this level of protection that makes respirators, particularly FFP2 and FFP3 masks, the most effective masks against coronavirus and Covid 19 infections.
HOME MADE MASKS
Due to the huge demand placed on the PPE industry by the Coronavirus pandemic and the need to ensure supplies for critical staff such as hospitals and care givers, home-made masks and face coverings have become popular.
However it’s important to remember that these masks are unlikely to have been produced to the same standards as surgical or respirators so their effectiveness should not be relied on in high risk environments.
SO WHICH OFFER THE BEST PROTECTION AGAINST COVID 19 AND CORONAVIRUS?
Ultimately, the best face masks for Covid 19 and Coronavirus protection will offer the greatest level of filtration against airborne particles, the better it will be at protecting you from infection.
While surgical masks can protect against infections passed in large droplets, they aren’t designed to stop you inhaling smaller aerosol sized particles. Therefore it’s clear that FFP3 filtering respirator masks offer the best protection against coronavirus.
A 2008 study published by the UK Health and Safety Executive confirmed that respirator masks offer significantly higher protection against aerosolised influenza virus than surgical masks.
The results showed that surgical masks provided a 6 fold reduction in exposure to airborne particles generated from a simulated sneeze while correctly fitted respirators at least a 100 fold reduction.
WHICH MASKS ARE BEST FOR WEARING GLASSES?
The problem of misted glasses while wearing a face mask is caused by warm breath leaking from the top of the mask and condensing on the glasses lens surface.
Therefore, the best way to prevent this is to ensure a good seal along the top edge of your mask. Both surgical and respirator masks are available with a nose pinch strip which helps to ensure a good fit around the contours of your face. Ultimately, the best mask for wearing glasses will be the mask designed to offer the best seal which will always be a respirator mask.
Some filtering respirators are equipped with an exhalation valve to improve user comfort. The valve prevents condensation inside the mask, misting on the glasses and helps the user breathe in and out easily.
OUR RECOMMENDED MASKS FOR MAXIMUM PROTECTION, COMFORT AND VALUE
VALMY FFP3 DISPOSABLE RESPIRATORS
Valmy respirator masks offer both unique comfort and maximum hygiene. They adapt perfectly to all face shapes and are light and comfortable to wear over longer periods of up to 8 hours.
|Valmy Cyrano Respirator Mask|
The Cyrano FFP3 respirator mask combines the benefits of maximum filtering protection from airborne particles with the comfort of lightweight, low resistance materials that allow easy breathing without the need for a valve for up to 8 hours. Manufactured in France, it is NHS approved and meets both EN149 and EN14683 standards for FFP3 face masks.
|Valmy Spireor Respirator Mask|
The Spireor face mask brand has been developed to provide the best possible valveless breathing performance with high level FFP3 filtration of solid and liquid particles which can be maintained for up to 8 hours. This mask is NHS approved and also meets both EN149 and EN14683 standards.