Which Facial Covering is Better? KN95, Cloth, or Surgical Masks ?

between the KN95, the N95, surgical masks, and cloth masks, it can be overwhelming to decipher the best option and for whom. We reached out to several medical experts who shed light on the benefits and differences between various masks.

Though there are many different options to choose from, according to an article in the medical journal Science Advances, the latest reports are that fitted, non-valved N95 masks are the best for the highest level of protection.

But what is the difference between an N95 and a KN95 mask?

The biggest benefit to the N95 or the KN95 masks is that they filter 95 percent of aerosol particulates. Both masks are made from several synthetic material layers and are intended to be worn over the mouth and nose. By wearing the mask properly, they both filter out 95 percent of aerosol particles that could potentially be carrying the novel coronavirus.

However, the difference is that only the N95 has been approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the U.S. organization responsible for regulating masks.

“The KN95 has not been approved by NIOSH,” said Dr. Ting Ting Wong, internist and infectious disease specialist at NewYork-Presbyterian Medical Group Brooklyn. “It has been approved in other countries, namely China. [The United States] has a very rigorous approval process. The mask has not gone through it yet.”

In September 2020, ECRI reviewed KN95 masks and found that nearly 70 percent of those produced in China did not meet the NIOSH filtering requirements.

“As a result, it’s vital to ask where the mask is manufactured to be more certain about personal risk, as well as the experience of other hospitals and providers with the mask,” said Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. “That said, even KN95s that do not meet U.S. standards for filtering efficiency might still provide better protection against COVID-19 than a surgical or cloth mask.”

However, it is vitally important to note that neither mask is effective unless worn properly.

“What’s important to realize is that it’s the tight-fitting seal on your face that gives the N95 superior protection, other than the actual high quality filtering properties of the mask itself,” said Glatter. “This is vital for healthcare workers and others who may have close contact with confirmed COVID-19 patients or those at risk.”

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