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Covid-19 EpidemicPreventive MedicinePrimary Care

KN95 Protect Better Than Cloth or Surgical Masks

By November 2, 20212 Comments

We are entering a long cold season where personal face masks will continue to be important to protect you and your contacts and loved ones from avoidable Covid-19 breakthrough infections.

Cloth and surgical masks

We ended up with cloth masks a year ago because more effective masks (N95, KN95, and surgical masks) were not readily available. That time has passed. There is no supply problem for good masks.

Cloth masks are modestly effective and mainly protect others from your exhalations. By observation, many of them don’t really fit well and sit off the face, allowing extensive unfiltered airflow. I know some of you have constructed cloth masks with N95 material inserts and so forth, but that is not true of most cloth masks.

Surgical masks are quite effective in protecting others, but don’t do a great job in protecting you because they are not tight fits and your inhalations also draw air readily around the crumpled sides. Surgical masks, remember, are designed to protect an operative patient from the surgeon’s exhalations.

KN95 best for general use

The KN95 masks with ear loops are face-fitting and filter incoming and outgoing air effectively to protect you and others from passing on Covid-19 infection. The N95 respirator masks are, yes, more effective and more expensive, but they are also harder to wear for long periods and are not needed in most social (nonmedical) situations.

KN95 masks are now generally available, inexpensive (about $0.50 each), and reliable. I believe the majority of fakes have gone by the boards. Retire your cloth masks. Upgrade to KN95’s.





  • Laura Hanson says:

    Any suggestions for identifying counterfeit N95 masks?

    • Laura, I believe the major websites, such as Amazon, are showing real KN95 masks, which in general are the ones you want for general use. There also have not been reports of fakes that I have seen in recent months. As to N95 respirators, you can certainly just buy the 3M brand, but in general you don’t need the N95 for general protection in stores etc.

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