What are face masks?
Face masks such as cloth or fabric masks act as a simple barrier and work as “source control”.
“Source control” refers to preventing the wearer’s respiratory droplets from traveling into the air and onto other people when the person wearing the mask coughs, sneezes, talks, etc.
These are not suitable for use during medical and surgical procedures in healthcare facilities, where exposure and risk of transmission of infection are higher. These masks may be used by the general public and in community settings. Please refer to MOH’s guidance and FAQs on the use of masks.
Face masks are not regulated as medical devices under the Health Sciences Authority (HSA). Therefore, the quality and effectiveness of face masks are not regulated by HSA.
How to choose a face mask?
For greater effectiveness, choose face masks that have good filtration capability. Examples of such masks include those distributed by the People’s Association and Temasek Foundation.
When selecting a face mask, look for the following specifications:
Masks with at least 2 to 3 layers of fabric. As a general guide, the material should not be see-through when held against the light.
Layers should preferably be made with different fabrics, including:
Water-repellant outer layer
Middle filter layer to remove particulates – this can be disposable filter inserts
Absorbent inner layer to absorb droplets from wearer’s mouth
Fabrics with better filtering efficiency
Fabrics with enough permeability to allow breathing
Appropriate fit around the face and chin, with complete coverage of the nose and mouth, to prevent leakage of exhaled droplets
Do not choose masks with exhalation valves, as these allow the escape of exhaled droplets from the wearer and expose others to the risk of infection.
Are face masks useful?
Disposable 3ply face mask with good filtering efficiency help prevent people who have COVID-19 from spreading the virus to others by acting as a “source control”. Wearing a mask in public places limits exposure to respiratory droplets and large particles and reduces the risk of community spread of infection. This is especially relevant for asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic infected wearers who feel well and may be unaware that they are infectious.
These masks are particularly useful in public settings (e.g. when using public transport) when strict adherence to safe distancing may be challenging.
As the contagious Delta variant of COVID-19 continues to spread in the U.S., you need to mask up—even if you're vaccinated. Here's how to find the right face mask for you.
What Are N95 Masks?
The N95 respirator is considered the gold standard of face coverings in the medical world, and even in the construction industry. These face coverings diverge from surgical masks in that the edges are designed to fit snugly to your face.
N95 masks are made of tough, yet flexible non-woven polypropylene fiber. They're mostly round with a protrusion near the top to help cover your nose. Elastic strings stretch around your head to hold the mask in place. N95s sometimes feature a valve to make inhalation and exhalation easier, but they're not required. The mask should be labeled with "N95" on it. Watch out for typos, as these could be counterfeits.
What Are KN95 Masks?
KN95s are closely related to N95s, but only the latter is approved for use in medical settings in the U.S., and the reasoning is pretty simple: N95s are the U.S. standard, while KN95s are the Chinese standard for these close-fitting filtration devices. Both are rated to filter out 95 percent of very small particles.
Due to the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) in the U.S. at the start of the pandemic, the CDC has authorized the use of KN95 masks as a suitable alternative for N95 masks. However, a number of hospitals and other KN95 wearers have pointed out some discrepancies in quality.
KN95 face masks are better than surgical masks or cloth masks, according to ECRI. These are most appropriate in cases where you don't expect to come into contact with bodily fluids. Non-certified masks that use head and neck straps will also serve you better than those with ear loops.