PPE 101: Quick and Simple Briefer on Face Masks

This year's must-have accessory? A face mask. Keep one handy to protect yourself and those around you. Here's what you should know.

The face mask, in its many variations, is one of the most accessible forms of personal protective equipment. Used properly, it can shield you from contaminants and other dangerous particulate matter — or prevent you from spreading germs. Here’s a quick briefer.

Surgical Mask

  • Offers a loose fit and is easier to breathe in
  • Keeps droplets and splatter from passing from a person’s mouth to nose, as well as to nearby surfaces and people
  • Should be used when unwell or when one requires added protection in an environment with airborne contaminants
  • Disposable and made for one-time usage


N95 Respirator

  • Offers a tight fit and may be more difficult to breathe in
  • Blocks out most airborne particulate matter
  • Prevents the wearer from breathing in particles that are up to 0.3 micrometers in diameter
  • To be used when air quality is poor or contains hazardous substances. This includes wildfire smoke, sandstorm dust and volcanic ashfall
  • Disposable and made for one-time usage


Pitta Mask

  • Also known as a dust mask
  • Filters out pollen and dust particles only
  • Washable and reusable


How to Wear a Surgical Mask

Wash (with soap) or sanitize your hands before picking up a mask

Orient the mask so that the metallic strip is on top. For non-white masks, the colored side should face outward

Pull elastic bands around your ears (or tie strings around your head). As best you can, adjust for a snug fit that properly encloses mask surface area

Ensure extra snugness by molding the nosepiece (metallic strip) to the angle of your nose bridge

Throw away the mask after one-time use, or when it becomes soiled


Additional Measures

1 — Avoid touching the mask, especially with hands that have not been sanitized

2 — Practise regular hand washing. Lather with soap the back of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails, for at least 20 seconds, before rinsing off

3 — Use clean hands when handling kitchen tools and food during food prep

4 — Cover your nose and mouth with tissue or a handkerchief when coughing or sneezing

5 — Dispose used tissue in proper waste bins

6 — Keep hand sanitizer or another type of alcohol-based hand cleanser on you

7 — If unwell, consult a doctor and be sure to use a mask in crowded, public areas

Written by

Kate Alvarez

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