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Are Respirators really Effective?

How Effective are Respirators During COVID-19?

Woman wearing respirators

Wise human beings always said ‘Expect the Unexpected’. Well, even these wise ones, wouldn’t have foreseen a pandemic striking the humankind of the 21st century. Out of all the apocalypses that could strike the earth, a pandemic was surely off the list, hence no country in the world was well prepared for it. 

Humankind was ready for a nuclear war, and a post-nuclear war’s nuclear winter, maybe even a zombie apocalypse, but not a viral attack. SARS-CoV-2 is a novel coronavirus responsible for the COVID-19 disease. It has been found out that the COVID-19 disease-causing virus can be effectively eliminated by simple practices of personal & public hygiene.

The potential virus has a high chance of entering one’s body through the nasal passage and also via the mouth. This meant that these pathways must be blockaded to deny entry to the viruses. How do you achieve it? Welcome our savior, THE RESPIRATORS. 

What are Respirators?

In our previous article on ‘An Ultimate Guide on Respirators’, we defined a respirator as specially designed equipment that protects an individual by restricting the entry of pathogens, fine dust particles, PM, carcinogenic particles, radioactive particles, gases, vapors, and other fine particles. A respirator may or may not be capable of denying entry to all of the above constituents. 

KN95 respirator

For example, in the current pandemic, particle-filtering respirators are used. These respirators are designed to deny the passage to the smaller size particles & pathogens. These respirators are completely non-effective against gases, fumes, and vapors.

What is the difference between Face Mask & Respirator?

According to the CDC, respirators are tight-fitting and protect an individual wearing them from small as well large particles that include a wide range from pathogens to aerosols to droplets, and many more. While the face masks are loose-fitting and protect an individual wearing from large particles. Face masks are considered to be comfortable and are advised to be worn either when the respirator isn’t available or when one feels uncomfortable wearing a respirator.

Are Respirators really required during the Pandemic?

Even before the pandemic existed, respirators were widely used & trusted by various industrial sectors, especially healthcare. Respirators were widely used to protect oneself from hazardous & harmful gases. But, these respirators are quite different from the popular N95 and KN95 respirators used in the pandemic. 

Are Respirators really effective? 

The respirators used in the pandemic, especially the N95 respirators (widely used, accepted, and tested by the NIOSH) or even FFP3 respirators (tested & regulated by European Authorities) or KN95 respirators (tested & regulated by Chinese Authorities), these respirators have a filtering efficiency of at least 90% of particles. There are also N99 & N100 respirators with a filtering efficiency of 99% & 99.97%, which means these respirators are surely trustworthy. 

Woman wearing a respirator

The regulatory agencies, especially NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) are quite strict & ensure that the respirators pass all the tests according to the set parameters. So, N95, N99, and N100 respirators can be trusted for their filtering efficiency. It has been proposed by several experts & doctors that the KN95 respirators are better than cloth masks & other face masks too.


The respirators (especially N95), are designed for a perfect fit. So, the issue of leakage of air is completely eliminated.  

How do you effectively use the Respirators?

The issue faced during the use of respirators is the lack of knowledge of their use. This includes donning & doffing of the respirators, improper disposal, long-term use, and many more. It becomes important to properly handle the respirator. Here are the steps of donning & doffing a respirator,


Donning a Respirator

  • Hold the respirator with the nosepiece facing outwards and the straps facing downwards.
  • Now, place the head strap below the ears.
  • Hold the respirator with one hand.
  • Place the straps over the ears.
  • Check the comfort level of the respirator.
  • If you aren’t comfortable, then adjust the respirator. 
  • If necessary use a nose bridge.

Doffing a Respirator

To remove the respirator,

  • Hold the respirator with one hand.
  • Pull the bottom strap over your head with the other hand.
  • Lift & remove the respirator with your dominant hand.

Once, the process of donning & doffing is done properly, then you need to understand the disposal methods of the respirators. Also, the storage & handling of the respirator affects its efficiency.

Woman wearing a respirator

When should you replace your Respirator?

Few respirators are single-use, which means after a stipulated period, you need to dispose of them. There are respirators that one can use multiple times but as time progresses, then there are chances of damage to the material of the respirator. You need to replace such respirators frequently. They are reusable respirators in which the filter cartridges are replaced after use or when their efficiency is reduced. So, you need to accordingly handle the respirators.

It is quite evident that when the pandemic struck, people panicked, even governments rushed in a few decisions. The pandemic was far worse than what the official records show, it is far worse than the situation one can predict sitting at the comfort of their air-conditioned room. When lockdown relaxations were announced, people needed a protective barrier to restrict the entry of novel coronavirus. There is no doubt that the respirators are life-saving & highly effective. Thanks to respirators (especially N95 & KN95) that protected us throughout the pandemic.