What are the best types of face masks to wear – and where to buy them?

Tube passengers on the London Underground, one wearing a face mask

With the flu and the new strain of Covid, a face mask can prevent you from needing medical attention when the NHS is at breaking point (Image: Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

While life has mostly returned to normal, the The Covid-19 pandemic is not really over yet.

Widespread outbreaks in China have “infected 70% of Shanghai’s population” and a new variant accounts for one in 25 cases in the UK.

The strain, dubbed XBB.1.5, has caused alarm in the US as it has spread to four out of 10 cases in the country, up from two out of 10 cases just last week.

While there is nothing to suggest the new tribe poses new dangers or threats, it comes at a time when the NHS is facing crippling pressures.

Bearing this in mind, for most able-bodied people, any way to reduce the risk of falling ill and relying on the NHS could help the expanded service. So some might consider wearing face masks again in crowded areas.

Here’s a reminder of what to look for when choosing a face mask…

Are N95 Masks Most Effective Against Covid?

The best mask to prevent the spread of Covid are the N95 masks.

As confirmed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Medical Association (AMA), N95 masks filter up to 95% of airborne particles.

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The construction of an N95 respirator is designed to fit the mask snugly to the face, eliminating the gap that regular face masks have.

In fact, according to a CDC study, N95 and KN95 masks were found to be 48% more effective than surgical or cloth masks.

The difference between these two types of masks is the certification. N95 is the US standard and KN95 is the Chinese standard. In the UK and parts of Europe the N95 equivalent may be known as FFP2 NR.

The AMA reports that wearing an N95 or KN95 mask reduces the chance of testing positive for Covid by 83%. This compares to 66% for surgical masks and 56% for cloth masks.

NHS coronavirus advert on UK street

The easiest measure to protect yourself is to wear a mask in crowded areas (Image: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Where to buy N95 or KN95 masks?

While there was a shortage of these medical masks during the peak of the pandemic – leading to some medical authorities urging people to leave them for medical workers and the public wearing cloth masks instead – they are now widely available.

Boots sell a pack of five for £7.99.

Amazon has plenty to choose from, with a pack of 10 currently available for £6.99.

Can you still wear cloth masks?

While N95 masks are considered the better choice, a cloth mask will still protect you – any mask is better than no mask if you’re worried about catching it.

Cloth masks also have the advantage of being reusable, but you have to wash the mask after each wear.

You can shop a range of cloth masks in different styles and prints from many well known retailers including ASOS, Holland and Barrett and LOOKFANTASTIC.

MORE: US extends Covid vaccination mandate for foreign travelers

MORE: Britain ‘ignoring Covid threat’ after travelers from China arrive test-free

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https://metro.co.uk/2023/01/07/what-are-the-best-kinds-of-facemasks-to-wear-and-where-to-buy-them-18057647/ What are the best types of face masks to wear - and where to buy them?

Justin Scacco

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