07 Nov 2022

What is the difference between medical masks and respirators, like N95 ?


Medical masks (also known as surgical masks) are:

  • composed of 3 layers of synthetic nonwoven materials
  • configured to have filtration layers sandwiched in the middle
  • available in different thicknesses
  • have various levels of fluid-resistance and filtration


Respirators (also known as filtering facepiece respirators – FFP) are available at different performance levels such as FFP2, FFP3, N95, N99, and N100.

Medical masks and respirator masks are similar in their filtration value. However, respirators also have a tight fit around the wearer face as the model and size of the respirator is specific to the wearer to ensure an adequate seal. Respirator masks are designed to protect health workers who provide care to COVID-19 patients in settings and areas where aerosol generating procedures are undertaken. They are also recommended for health workers providing care to suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients in settings where ventilation is known to be poor or cannot be assessed or the ventilation system is not properly maintained

Health workers should be fit tested before using a respirator to ensure that they are wearing the correct size. Wearing a loose-fitting respirator will not offer the same level of protection to the wearer as it may allow small particles to get inside the mask where there are gaps, for example through the side.

Credit from : https://www.who.int/news-room/questions-and-answers/item/coronavirus-disease-covid-19-masks

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