What to look for in a medical mask

From January 27, 2020 to today, a lot has happened. On this date, Dr. Camilla Rothe's first patient tested positive for Covid-19. Not long after, the face mask evolved into a protective companion in everyday life. She was able to protect a large number of people from a virus, especially in situations where distance could not be maintained. Despite new regulations and other changes, it is clear that masks are not being worn correctly.

The latest studies by the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization in Göttingen present the following observations on the protection and effectiveness of masks:

When an infected person and a healthy person meet indoors for 20 minutes at a short distance while wearing an FFP2, N95, or KN95 mask correctly, the risk of infection is one in a thousand (0.1 percent). In contrast, the risk of infection with an ill-fitting mask is around 4%. This represents a 40% increase in the risk of infection! The researchers were able to calculate the risk of infection by taking into account factors such as particle size, exhalation physics, different types of masks, and the risk of inhaling corona viruses. But how do you put on the mask properly?

These rules must be observed when wearing an FFP2 mask:

  • Before unpacking: wash or disinfect hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds

  • Never reach inside the mask, if possible only touch the straps

  • Unfold the mask completely and preform the nose piece

  • Starting at the chin, place the mask with one hand

  • With the other hand pull the straps over the head (top strap over the ears, the bottom strap under the ears on the neck)

  • Do not twist the ribbons, they should lie flat

  • Adjust the fit of the mask at the top and bottom, readjust the adjustable straps if necessary

  • Important: The nose clip must be adapted to the shape of the nose: One finger presses the clip onto the nose, the thumb and forefinger of the other hand shape it around the bridge of the nose

  • Control: If the mask fits correctly, it inflates when you breathe out and contracts when you breathe in. If this is not the case or you can feel a draft, urgently readjust

  • When removing: only touch the retaining straps

What should I look out for when buying an FFP2 mask?

The CE marking is probably the most important part of a certified mask. It consists of the CE and a four-digit identification number that is assigned to the test center. In Germany, a test center is, for example, DEKRA, the Institute for Occupational Safety and Health of the German Statutory Accident Insurance (IFA), or the German Statutory Accident Insurance (DGUV). Such a check number can be checked and assigned on the website of the EU Commission. It should also be noted that a certification standard is printed on it. These aspects are supplemented by an imprint of the manufacturer or the product designation. Masks of type N95 or KN95 are also subject to the same specifications and differ only in the country of manufacture. If the FFP2 label is printed in addition to the product designation by N95 or KN95, this mask has been checked twice and can be worn without hesitation like the German version.

Caution: Filters are a no-go with this type of mask. Because with these, the air is only filtered when inhaled. When the air we breathe is expelled, it is no longer filtered and our fellow human beings can no longer be protected.

Beware of CPA goods!

The corona pandemic respirators theoretically meet the mask standard of FFP2 masks - but do not go through the same certification process as conventional masks. This type of mask found its place on the market at the time of the mask shortage in 2020. Governments were forced to act as quickly as possible and quickly reduced the testing time for masks in this certification area. Many companies took advantage of this opportunity and manufactured “inferior” FFP2 masks, which unfortunately are still in circulation, but do not protect as well as a conventional or certified FFP2 mask. Through a random purchase of such a mask, the ZDF magazine WISO found out that said mask only filtered 37 percent of the aerosols. Certified FFP2 masks filter almost 95 percent of the aerosols and when worn correctly, provide the greatest possible protection for the wearer and his counterpart.

When using masks, it must always be ensured that they fit evenly and tightly, but do not press and that no air flows out of or into the mask. The wearer should feel a moderately increased breathing resistance and be able to create a noticeable positive pressure in the mask when exhaling. Wearing a beard poses a challenge, although one does not only speak of a full beard. Even stubble and fine 3-day beards ensure air permeability for mask wearers. It is also important to store the mask properly, which means not stuffing the mask in your pants or handbag and also not pushing it into the crook of your arm or your wrist. If you disregard hygiene, there is a risk of infection from bacteria and viruses attached to the mask.

How long can I wear the mask?

Some claim that they must replace the mask immediately after use or exchange it for a new one. Infectiologists, on the other hand, are skeptical of its practical utility, given that the mask is frequently only worn for a short period of time when shopping.

The RKI recommends a maximum wear time of 75 minutes, followed by a 30-minute break. Overall, it advertises an eight-hour wearing time.

It should also be noted that once a mask becomes wet, it should be changed. Because the filter effect diminishes as humidity increases. In practice, this means that the droplets from coughing or sneezing are thrown into the mask. As a result, the mask becomes damp, and the filter performance for the person wearing it and the surrounding environment suffers.

The media repeatedly advises that the mask can be "disinfected" in the oven after eight hours of wearing time under observation. However, this is only appropriate in a few cases. This is due to the fact that it would have to be exactly 80 °C. Effectiveness is not guaranteed if there is a deviation. If, for example, the oven does not display the exact number of degrees, the mask or the wearer may suffer adverse effects. Because the mask becomes unusable at 90 °C. Viruses are not completely killed at 70 °C, and the mask cannot be reused. Temperature control via external devices, such as calibrated oven thermometers, would be possible.

Our employees will be happy to answer any questions you may have about our personal protective equipment (PPE).