We are fully committed to helping fight the spread of COVID-19 by supporting healthcare works around the world. This pandemic is affecting all of us, and we are doing everything we can to support public health–including doubling our global output of N95 respirators and getting them to healthcare providers on the front lines of the pandemic. Learn more about how we’re increasing production of PPE.
Procedure masks are loose fitting and designed to help reduce particles expelled by the wearer.
Surgical masks are also loose fitting and designed to protect the patient from particles expelled from the wearer; in addition they can be used as a fluid barrier.
Standard and surgical N95 respirators are both designed to help reduce the wearer’s exposure to airborne particulate hazards. In addition, surgical N95 respirators are FDA cleared as a medical device and can be used as a fluid barrier to splashes and sprays.
Masks often fit loosely, leaving gaps between the mask and your face. Fit test requirements do not apply as masks are not designed to reduce wearer exposure to airborne particulates.
N95 respirators are designed to fit tightly, creating a seal between your face and the respirator. Requires fit testing and user seal checks.
Standard and surgical N95 respirators are both designed to help reduce the wearer’s exposure to airborne particulate hazards.
In addition, surgical N95 respirators are FDA cleared as a medical device and can be used as a fluid barrier to splashes and sprays.
An elastomeric respirator is a reusable piece of personal protective equipment with exchangeable cartridge filters. The cartridge filters are single use.
When properly selected and worn, reusable respirators effectively filter airborne particulate hazards. They are designed to fit tightly to the face and are able to be cleaned and reused.
PAPRs are a type of respirator that use a blower to force the ambient air through air-purifying elements. When properly selected and worn, PAPRs effectively filter airborne particulate hazards. They are designed to fit over some facial hair and they are available in a variety of styles and facepiece/headtop offerings.
There is no time limit to wearing a N95 respirator. Respirators can be worn until they are dirty, damaged or difficult to breathe through.
Standard infection control practice usually requires disposal of masks and respirators after each patient interaction. Particles that may contain viruses, bacteria, etc. get captured on the N95 respirator filter fibers during use and remain on the fibers after use. Handling or storing the respirator after use against particles containing viruses, bacteria, etc. might contribute to result in contact transmission of the disease.
We recognize the existing CDC guidelines recommending respirator reuse: When supplies of N95 respirators are depleted, a combination of approaches can be utilized to conserve supplies while safeguarding health care workers (see full CDC document here).
There is no way of determining the maximum possible number of safe reuses for an N95 respirator. Safe N95 reuse is affected by a number of variables that impact respirator function and contamination over time.
The decision to implement policies that permit extended use or limited reuse of N95 respirators should be made by the professionals who manage the institution’s respiratory protection program.
To be effective, a respirator needs to be worn correctly and worn throughout the duration of the hazardous exposure.
Doff for disposal: Do NOT touch the front of the respirator.
Doff for storage and reuse:
CDC provided guidance for used respirator storage: Hang used respirators in a designated storage area or keep them in a clean, breathable container such as a paper bag between uses.
To minimize potential cross-contamination, store respirators so that they do not touch each other and the person using the respirator is clearly identified. Storage containers should be disposed of or cleaned regularly.
3M is collaborating with several sterilization companies and institutions that are investigating ways for hospitals to safely decontaminate N95 FFRs.