If you work in areas where there are airborne particles that you need to protect yourself from, a mask is an important part of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) approved respiratory protection program. Wearing one is not as simple as it may appear, and there are several details to be aware of in order to properly protect yourself. The first step in properly wearing a N95 mask is understanding when and when not to wear it. This can be determined by your employer or by conducting your own research.
How can you tell if you need one?
An N95 mask is a facemask that, like surgical masks, covers your nose and mouth. They are intended to shield you from airborne particles such as dust, pollen, mold, and even small viruses (such as colds) that enter your mouth or nose. When you have a cold, you should always wear a face mask, but it is especially important if there are others in your household who could catch it from you.
When should you put it on?
According to a CDC spokesman, a large percentage of Americans will be exposed to germs during a pandemic, so chances are you’ll need one. The CDC recommends that everyone over the age of 6 months wear a N95 mask, but children under the age of 5 should avoid them.
Wear your mask whenever you may be exposed to hazardous particulates that could harm your health. Dust storms, forest fires, and chemical spills are all examples of this. You might even want to wear it if a government entity issues an air pollution alert. Also, keep in mind that you’ll need a mask for each member of your household: the filter is only designed for one person.
Which masks should you buy?
Look for a mask with two straps that covers your nose and mouth. The best ones will filter out at least 95 percent of airborne particles 0.3 microns in diameter or larger, which should be enough to keep you safe during a pandemic. If you wear one strap under your chin, it may not work as well and may fall off more easily.
Putting the mask on
When wearing your mask, make sure it covers at least two-thirds of your face. Check that both straps are snug around your head but not too snug, and that they do not obstruct your vision or breathing. If you wear glasses, they may need to be adjusted accordingly. If you intend to stay inside during a flu pandemic, wear your mask around others and in public until you feel comfortable doing so without it.
Getting the Most Out of Your Mask
The type of mask you wear during a pandemic will have a significant impact on your ability to breathe normally. When wearing a N95 mask, inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Wear tightly buttoned or zipped-up clothing and closed-toed shoes to prevent air from seeping in around the bottom and edges of your mask.
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