Do face masks prevent disease-A guide to select and wear properly

While the world is suffering from outbreak of corona virus. People start to find possible protective products like wearing a face mask to reduce risk of infection of covid19. But here comes the question:

Does a facemask prevent the flu or virus spreading?

Not wearing vs. wearing a mask

An Australian study on 286 adults in 143 families who had kids with flu-like illness. The results showed that adults who wore masks were 4 times less likely to get infection then those who wore no masks.

the effect of wearing a mask on virus infection rate

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Studies Show Wearing a Face Mask do Works Great In Preventing Infection

A 2008 study in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases reported that face masks are highly effective when used correctly in preventing viral infections. Family members of children who used the masks properly will reduce over 80 percent risk of being diagnosed with the flu.

Another such study was conducted by a research team from the University of Michigan on more than 1,000 students. They assigned the student into three groups: those who wore masks, those who wore masks and practiced hand sanitizing, and those who did neither. The results showed that those who were doing the both practices properly reduced their risk of flu infection by an astonishing 75 percent.

In the studies above, we can see:

  1. Flu prevention with face mask should pair with correct wearing & hand sanitizing
  2. The wearing of face mask is only reducing risks of infection to some extent.
  3. There are no figures indicating the difference of using different face masks.

how to choose face masks for flu prevention

How to use face mask properly to prevent infection?

Correct Way of Wearing Face Masks

1.Wash your hands before wearing a disposable face mask.

2.Fold the mask in half,with dark side out (blue) and light side in (soft white) ,to make it fit your face snugly.

3.Hold the ear cord with both hands, place the side of the mask with the wire(a small adjustable strip) on the nose.

4.Pinch the wire according to your nose shape.

5.Pull the folds down to cover the mouth and nose completely.


1.Disposable face masks are usually replaced every 4 hours, and cannot be reused.

2.Replace the mask immediately when it is damp or contaminated.


Correct Way of Removing Face Masks

1.Do not touch the outside of the mask when removing it.

2.Hold the ear cord with both hands and take it off.

3.Spray with alcohol to disinfect, seal and discard the mask.

4.Wash hands immediately with soap and running water after removing the mask.


How to choose effective face mask for flu prevention?

For average face masks like:

  • Paper Facemask
  • Activated carbon mask
  • Cotton face mask
  • Sponge face mask

With a not fine enough structure, the masks above can’t effectively prevent infection. But practice shows that surgical Face mask or respirators can effectively prevent respiratory infections. The most widely used face masks in the market now is disposable surgical or medial face mask and respirator like N95, KN95, DS2, FFP2, etc..


Surgical mask or respirators? Which is better?

Features of Surgical Mask:

  • Loosely fitting to cover both nose and mouth
  • Primarily designed to protect patient from medical pros not the wearer
  • One way protection for patient to filter the body fluid from the wearer
  • No standard ratings e.g. NIOSH or EN

Features of Respirators

  • Tightly fitting to create a facial seal – Wearer may feel insufficient air
  • Two way protection by filtering the air breathed in and out
  • Protect both the wearer (when worn properly)
  • Different types like disposable, half face or full face
  • Have standard ratings e.g. NIOSH or EN

From the comparison above, we can see:

  1. They only add protection to nose and mouth
  2. Disposable surgical mask is more comfortable.
  3. Respirators like N95 face mask protect both the wearer and other while the surgical masks don’t.
  4. There are standard safety ratings for respirators while surgical mask have no official standards.


What is Respirator Standards? NIOSH or EN standard


NIOSH is an American standard who is also part of the Center for Disease Control (CDC). The most common type respirator on the market N95 is rated by this standards.

EN standard

The EN respirator rating which is also called EN standard 149:2001 is administrated by CEN (European Committee for Standardization) using a rating system called FFP(“filtering face piece”)

Here is a respirator rating comparison for the top respiratory face mask types on the market now:

If you can’t sourcing the exact type like N95, you can compromise on FFP2 or higher ratings respirators like FFP3 and N100 respirators. If these are still hard to purchase, try Korean standards here and you will find KF 94 another great replacement for urgent use of respirators in anti-corona period. They shared similar filter capacity on particles.

Face Masks and respirator standards in different country

Data from overseas authority platform

The recent studies we find can only indicate the effectiveness on the FLU-like illness but there is no report show their effectiveness on filtering corona virus in the air.

From statement and statistics above, we can see:

  • Wearing a mask is much better than wearing nothing when exposed in virus or flu.
  • Surgical masks and respirators can effectively reduce infection rates of flu like illness
  • There is no significant study show that N95 is absolutely better than surgical masks
  • Don’t source by models of face masks like N95 or KN95 but according to its filtering capacity. As according to respirator standards of different countries, the ratings and face mask models or names are different as well.
  • Face masks can only protect nose and mouth from others’ bodily fluid or virus. If you want to protect the eyes or other part of your body, you need more protective products like protective glasses, coveralls, shoe covers, disposable gloves and more for better and safer self-protection from flu or virus infection.

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