Masks: Differences And Which Ones To Choose

Why Are Masks So Important?

Now, countless studies demonstrate the importance of using masks to contain the contagion of Covid-19. We are aware that they will continue to be part of our daily lives until the authorities can declare the pandemic over. The World Health Organization reminds us that masks are an important part of the set of measures to reduce the virus’s transmission. Remember that, regardless of the type of device used, you must always correctly wear them to ensure their effectiveness.

Masks Are All Different

Now that we have seen what the mask is for, we have to answer another question: which mask to choose? Are we sure we know everything? Different types of masks can be sold in pharmacies, online, and in shops, and it is legitimate to ask which one is more appropriate to buy about the context in which we will find ourselves using it. Today the offer is vast, and it is, therefore, good to know how to orient yourself, checking the markings and certifications.

DM, PPE, Or Community Masks?

DM: Surgical Masks

Surgical masks are medical devices (DM) for nose and mouth protection; they prevent the passage of the droplets in the air exhaled by the person wearing them; they do not adhere perfectly to the face’s contours because they allow small air particles to enter. Surgical masks are made up of layers of non-woven fabric, are disposable, and have a very high filtering capacity towards the outside but reduced towards the wearer. Therefore they prevent the wearer from contaminating the environment. 

They are suitable for daily use in uncrowded and uncontaminated places; the protection is for 6/8 hours of continuous use. Being disposable, the mask should not be reused, and when it becomes wet, it must be replaced with a new, dry, clean one. Only if it has not been used continuously for 6/8 hours a day can it be reused the following day, provided it is kept in a paper bag and always careful to handle it with the rubber bands to avoid touching it with the hands. Being medical devices, surgical masks must be certified with CE marking, about the standard.

PPE, Or Personal Protective Equipment: The FFP

FFP (Filtering FacePiece) masks are made of filter material. They cover the nose and mouth and protect against solid particles (dust, viruses, bacteria) and aqueous or oily aerosols. The EN 149 standardizes their filtering efficiency, divided into protection classes FFP1, FFP2, and FFP3 according to their filtering capacity; they can be disposable (acronym NR – non-reusable) or reusable (acronym R). The FFP1 group has a guaranteed filtering capacity of 80%, FFP2 of 94%, and FFP3 of 99%. 

It should be noted that only FFP2 and FFP3 are deemed suitable to protect against airborne pathogens. In addition to health personnel, filter masks are indicated for people at risk (older adults or people not in perfect health). When they frequent crowded and potentially contaminated places, they last for a work cycle intended for 8-10 hours in a contaminated environment. The reusable FFP masks, as long as they are not subject to wear of the materials of which they are made, can be sanitized in two ways:

  1. Replacing only the filters (based on the manufacturer’s indications regarding the number of hours in which the filter ensures protection);
  2. Wash them with a common delicate detergent ( following the manufacturer’s instructions, who generally indicate in the instructions for use the maximum number of possible washes so as not to compromise their filtering capacity).

Like all PPE, they must guarantee functionality, safety, protection, comfort, and solidity to the wearer and must have complete labeling with information relating to the following:

  1. CE mark;
  2. Manufacturer’s name;
  3. Item code;
  4. Protection class;

There are also FFP masks with valves which, remember, only protect the wearer. Therefore, this type of mask must be used while also wearing a surgical mask on top.

What Are “Community Masks”?

They are cloth masks, and the variety is decidedly wide. They are not subject to particular certifications, so they should be considered a physical barrier. Their filtering power depends on the type of fabric and the number of layers, but as an indication, they are less effective than a surgical mask both on entry and, above all, on exit.

If you decide to use them anyway, it is important to take care of their hygiene and correct wearing, ensuring that they adhere to the face. These masks should be cleaned or disinfected after each use. They can be washed in the machine at 60° or by hand with warm water and a mild detergent. A small OneNote regarding visors, or face shields: they do not offer equivalent protection to masks in reducing the transmission of the virus, but they can be validly used in combination with them.

How To Behave With Children

Adults must help children wear masks correctly, ensure they are the right size, cover their noses, mouth, and chin, and explain how to wash and sanitize their hands. For cases in which children have health problems that make them particularly vulnerable or cannot wear masks, it is advisable to consult your doctor for the right indications.

The Good Rules For The Use Of The Mask

Using, storing, and disposing of, or washing, masks appropriately are essential to ensure maximum effectiveness. It is necessary:

  1. Sanitize your hands before putting on the mask, taking it off, or touching it.
  2. Wear the mask well, always gripping it by the elastic bands and making sure it covers the nose, mouth, and chin and that the space between the face and the mask is minimal.
  3. Follow the rules for using each type of mask.

During use, handling it as little as possible and avoiding putting it in your pocket or in contact with potentially dangerous objects and surfaces is advisable.


Now that you have a clearer picture, you can use the masks with greater peace of mind. WHO reminds us that masks alone are not enough to protect us; other precautions, such as maintaining physical distance and avoiding crowding, and frequent hand sanitizing, must be taken on a personal level. And then we must always carefully follow the good rules suggested by the experts and all the obligations imposed by the law because it affects our health, that of our loved ones, and the community in which we live.

Also Read: How To Prevent The Flu?


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