Frequently we hear about wildfire smoke, especially in parts of California, due to which the air quality becomes dangerously contaminated. Many parts of the world are also facing a steep decrease in the quality of air and the levels become so dangerous that the air becomes toxic to breathe for a few days causing asthmas and allergies in many. In such situations, you will see people running to medical stores to purchase N-95 masks which is the recommended smoke mask by agencies for smoke and air pollution. But with so many advanced masks available in the market, are you making the right choice?
We have explained below the types of all the safety masks, how to choose the right mask and tips while using the mask to make sure that you are confident about the mask you choose;
These protection masks can be classified into many types as discussed below;
These masks are useless when it comes to protecting against smoke and pollution as it is not designed for it. It will only stop liquid droplets from exiting or entering your nose and mouth. They should only be used in hospitals to ensure that the infection is not passed on from the patients to the caregivers.
These masks form a seal around your nose and mouth to protect you from harmful particles floating in the air. The N95 is a respirator mask type.
A gas mask is again a type of respirator, but it stops not just particles but also toxic gases from entering your lungs through the air. These masks have filters or cartridges to filter out the toxin and they need to be changed on a regular basis.
This is like a gas mask but an advanced version of it where a fan pushes air through the filters and cartridges hence you need not strain your lungs to breathe and this mask is much more comfortable to use.
This is a more expensive and bulkier mask where separate oxygen is supplied from an oxygen tank that the person carries hence a proper formal training is needed before this could be used.
To keep yourself safe from the harmful effects of wildfire smoke or other air pollutants, you need to be able to find the right mask as per your requirement.
First, avoid surgical masks as it is of no use and will not protect you from any pollutants, in fact, stop using bandanas or wet cloths as well because they are all useless, only a certified smoke mask can help you protect against these harmful particles.
N-95 mask is the most commonly recommended and economical mask for people who need to fight against smoke and air pollution. This is also an economical mask; hence most people can afford it. When you buy one, check that the rating is marked on the mask. The 95 means that the mask filters 95% of particles of size 0.3 microns. Masks that are rated 99 will filter out 95% of the particles. N here means a mask which is not oil resistant, hence it should just be used for smoke and dust.
Gas masks are more expensive than N-95 due to the additional filters/ cartridges. Normal people need not use this mask for smoke and dust but if you have conditions such as asthma, allergies or chemical sensitivity then you should consider getting this mask as it will provide you with a higher level of protection. People who have heart or lung issues may also face shortness of breath at times hence they need to take special care in such conditions by using this type of mask as when you breathe heavily, you will intake more air hence the requirement of filtration increases. In fact, people who have lung issues may find it hard to breathe with a gas mask also as they need to breathe harder and their condition may get worse hence they should go for the PAPR mask that will aid them in breathing normally by blowing air.
If your respirator is large or small for you, then do not try to modify it on your own as you will only damage it hence get it changed.
These respirators get clogged with dust and moisture or may get damaged, hence do not just depend on one mask but buy more than one so that you have a redundant available with you in-case you need one. If you find it hard to breathe through the mask, then you can assume that it is time to change the smoke mask.
While using smoke masks may help you from the smoke to an extent, but the best way to remain safe is to stay home as much as possible. Make sure that your HVAC system is running fine and the filters have been changed recently.
When the atmosphere contains a lot of pollutants, you would not want them to enter your home hence do not open the windows and doors much to create a safe breathing area.
There are many air purifiers in the market that you could buy but we suggest you get one with a HEPA filter which will be able to clean the air of minutes particles. Also, make sure that the capacity of the purifier is sufficient to clean the room.
Using a smoke mask for protection against smoke and dust may work for most people but if you have aggravated medical conditions, then we suggest you go for the higher level of the smoke mask just for added protection.