Updated: Feb 21, 2021
Even in the pre-coronavirus era, many doctors and dentists used a protective face mask. Also known as a surgical, operating or medical face mask, it is made of multilayer plastic with pleats for better adjustment. With an approval according to DIN EN 14683, this type of mask is considered a medical face mask with a specific filtering performance. The CE mark on the packaging indicates that the legal requirements for quality have been met.
Surgical masks primarily protect other people in the immediate vicinity from droplets that the mask wearer emits from the mouth and nose when speaking or coughing, for example, rather than from aerosols. For the wearer, they offer only a certain degree of self-protection. Surgical masks are intended for single use, but can be used several times if worn for a short period of time. Regular replacement is advisable.
FFP2 Face Masks
Respirators, also called particle-filtering half masks or fine dust masks, have a much more far-reaching effect. They protect the wearer from aerosols, smoke and fine dust in the air they breathe when the edges fit tightly against the face. A Europe-wide standard (EN 149) regulates the quality of these masks.
Three protection classes define the retention capacity: FFP1, FFP2 and FFP3. FFP stands for "Filtering Face Piece". At least masks of class FFP2 are required for protection against the coronavirus. Only masks with a CE marking, including a four-digit number for one of the 41 approved test centres, may now be sold. Designations such as KN95 (Chinese standard) or N95 (USA) alone are no longer sufficient.
Simple Fabric Masks
Simple fabric masks only offer a low level of protection, depending on the design. Ideally, they should consist of three layers. The outer layer should repel water, the middle layer should have a filtering effect, and the inner layer should be able to absorb moisture. Firmly woven fabrics are more suitable than lightly woven ones.
The German Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices points out that wearers of such masks "cannot rely on them to protect them or others from transmission of SARS-CoV-2."
Visors made of plastic, so-called face shields, are not permitted as a substitute for face coverings in most German states. They retain significantly fewer liquid particles than masks. Aerosols can flow past the edges of the visors unhindered.
Wearing, removing and storing protective masks correctly
Wearing protective masks is only useful if they are handled properly.
· Wash hands before putting on and do not touch the inside of the mask.
· The mask must fit snugly at the edges and cover the mouth and nose throughout.
· Do not touch while wearing.
· If the mask is soaked, it should be changed.
· To remove, grasp the side cords or elastics and do not touch the front. Always wash hands thoroughly after removal.
· Wash mask immediately or store in an airtight container until washed.
· Freezer bags with zip closures are ideal for transporting worn and unworn masks when traveling. They prevent contact with contaminated fabric parts and keep unused masks hygienically clean.
· Never use other people's worn masks.
· Keep a minimum distance of 1.50 meters from other people even when wearing a mask.