top of page

Different types of face coverings

There are broadly four types of face coverings: respirator masks, surgical masks (also called medical masks), cloth masks and visors.

Respirator facemasks are intended to filter out essentially all small particles from the air breathed by the wearer. The terms N95, FFP3, FFP2 and KN95 are some specifications that indicate a mask is a respirator mask. Respirator masks are recommended for use by healthcare workers in very specific situations to protect them from COVID-19 infection. In most healthcare situations they are not needed. Respirator masks are often expensive. They are only reliable if carefully fitted. Respirator masks are intended for use one time and for discard after use.

Surgical masks are the main type of mask used in healthcare settings to protect healthcare workers caring for a person with COVID-19. People with COVID-19 infection are also asked to wear a mask if they can to reduce the amount of COVID-19 droplets that they scatter. There is some evidence that if everyone uses surgical masks in public places that this may reduce spread of virus similar to the virus that causes COVID-19. Surgical masks are intended for use one-time or single use and for discard after this one-time use.

Non-medical cloth face coverings can be purchased or can be home made. They can be made from many different types of materials and in different designs. Cloth face coverings can be laundered and re-used.

Visors are plastic shields worn over the face that should extend from above the eyes to below the chin and should wrap around from ear to ear. They are sometimes used when people find use of masks or cloth face coverings is not very practical. They are generally not considered to provide the same level of protection as a mask or face covering.

Choice of type of masks for use in the Community

There are certain groups of people for whom the use of surgical face masksrather than cloth face coverings is now recommended by NPHET. Surgical masks rather than cloth face coverings are now recommended to be worn by people who are in vulnerable, high risk and very high-risk cohorts and older age groups when in crowded outdoor spaces or confined indoor community spaces. This is as an additional form of protection for the wearer against inhalation of or contact with infectious particles.

These recommendations do not apply to residential care facilities, nursing homes or hospitals as the requirements for these groups of people are addressed in specific guidance for those settings.

Surgical masks are not recommended for use by other members of the public.

Minimising the number of people you meet with especially indoors, and maintaining distance are key protection measures. Wearing a cloth face covering or mask does not substitute for the need to minimise social contacts and keep a safe distance. People who use disposable face coverings or surgical masks will require a sufficient supply of them to avoid re-use. Surgical masks are not intended for re-use. Those who choose to use cloth face coverings will require a number of them and each one should be laundered before re-use. It is important that face coverings and surgical masks are stored safely before use and disposed of properly in the case of disposable face coverings and surgical masks or in the case of cloth face coverings, stored safely and laundered regularly to ensure that they are clean. People who use visors should check if the visor is reusable and if so that they know how to clean it. Note that visors are generally not considered to provide protection equivalent to a cloth face covering or mask.

It is important also for members of the public who use face coverings to know that their use is not appropriate for some people. Children under 13 years do not need to wear a face covering but some older children may choose to do so. Cloth face coverings or masks may make it very difficult to communicate with some people. If a mask cannot be used a visor may be an option. Some people may find that wearing a cloth face covering or surgical mask causes problems with skin, with their airway or cause anxiety or discomfort that they cannot tolerate. Prolonged use of cloth face coverings can be associated with discomfort and with damage to the skin of the face. Limiting use of face coverings to those situations where the person is in a public indoor space where a distance of 2m cannot be maintained will help to reduce the risk of discomfort and skin irritation associated with their use.

If you need 3 layers face masks:

1) Outer layer: Non- woven fabric

2) Middle layer: Melt- blown fabric

3) Inner layer: absorbent non-woven fabric

please visit: MW Medical virtual shop

Sources: HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre

7 views0 comments
bottom of page