N95 respirators are tight-fitting covers that when properly fitted to the face protects the wearers from minute particles that float in the air like tuberculosis, measles, chickenpox, and the novel coronavirus. They should lay on the faces tightly with no gaping. An N95 respirator intends to provide more protection than a procedure mask by blocking at least 95% of the minute (0.3 microns) particles. It is paramount to note that manufacturers do not test all N95 respirators for fluid resistance – we cannot use them as surgical N95s in the perioperative setting.
The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology outlines a few ‘dos’ and ‘Don’ts’ for wearing N95 respirators in non-surgical healthcare settings. We list them below.
- Check to make sure the N95 respirator has no defects such as holes or torn straps.
- Wear for protection against minute particles that float in the air, for example, the Novel Coronavirus, TB, measles, or chickenpox.
- Follow manufacturer’s instructions for donning and doffing of N95 respirators.
- Ensure proper fit – making sure the nose and mouth are completely covered. The N95 mask must have a complete seal all around. Check the seal after donning the respirator.
- Mould the mask over the bridge of your nose when putting it to keep it fitting. It is also helpful to press all around the face seal to be sure it is tightly in place.
- Tilt head forward and remove the N95 respirator by pulling the bottom strap over the back of the head, followed by the top strap without touching the front of the mask. Keep straps tight during the removal process.
- Touch the straps only to discard the respirator. Wash your hands before and after using any personal protective equipment, such as your gloves and gown.
- Remove the mask when no longer in clinical space and the patient intervention is complete.
- Don’t wear if wet or soiled; get a new N95 respirator.
- Don’t reuse; toss it after wearing once.
- Don’t let patients or visitors wear n95 respirators unless anyhow.
- Don’t wear an N95 respirator that hasn’t been properly fit tested. Proper fit is essential.
- Don’t use the N95 respirator if air leaks around the respirator edges.
- Don’t touch the front of the N95. Don’t snap – you may spread germs.
- Don’t share your N95 respirator with others; you can spread germs that way.
- Don’t leave an N95 respirator hanging around your neck.
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In a nutshell, manufacturers do not test all N95 respirators for fluid resistance, and so, we cannot use all of them as surgical N95s in the perioperative setting. Let’s protect ourselves from the devastating COVID-19 by following the right procedures for wearing N95 respirators and all other medical masks. Don’t wear a non-medical mask like the KN95 variant in a medical setting. You will be at a substantially higher risk of catching the virus.