The CDC Just Issued a Warning About This Kind of Face Mask

There are certain things the agency wants you to know about this popular face covering.

Masks are pertinent to protecting yourself and others against the spread of COVID. With so many face covering options out there, however, it can be hard to know which kind of mask is right for you. And unfortunately, not every mask is effective in protecting you in every situation. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) just issued a few warnings about one popular kind of face mask: the KN95. Read on to find out what the agency wants people to know about these face masks, and for more on mask safety, If You're Layering These Masks, the CDC Says to Stop Immediately.

Don't wear a KN95 mask if you have certain types of facial hair.

Businessman with face mask talking on smart phone while working in the office during coronavirus epidemic.
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The CDC says you should not wear a KN95 mask "if you have certain types of facial hair." For respirators like the KN95, the CDC says that clean-shaven faces work best to allow a true seal of the mask against the face—which is what protects you and makes these masks so effective. Certain types of facial hair, however, such as a full beard, extended goatee, and stubble, may disrupt this seal and create gaps between the respirator's seal and your face, which won't keep you safe. And for more essential mask guidance, If You See This on Your Mask, the FDA Says Toss It Immediately.

Don't layer a KN95 mask.

white KN95 or N95 mask for protection pm 2.5 and corona virus isolated on grey background. Prevention of the spread of virus and pandemic COVID-19.
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Double masking has become a major topic of discussion recently—so much so that the CDC recently endorsed this practice. However, the CDC says there are some types of masks you should not layer when using the double-masking method, and that includes the KN95 mask. According to the CDC, you should neither combine a KN95 mask with any other mask, nor should you use more than one KN95 mask at a time. And for more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Don't wear a KN95 if you find it hard to breathe in.

Female doctor is visiting a patient at home, holding a notebook. She's asking questions to a senior woman.
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The CDC also says you should not wear a KN95 mask if you find it hard to breathe in. This kind of mask is created to be a tight-fitting respirator, which "can be uncomfortable" and "often requires more effort to breathe," the CDC says. After all, respirators have a thicker filtering layer, which is what makes them so effective. Unfortunately, this can make breathing through a respirator like the KN95 "harder than breathing in open air," per the CDC, which may mean these types of masks are not suitable for people who have trouble breathing, such as those with lung diseases like asthma or elderly people. And for more coronavirus news, If You're Over 65, You Could Be Missing This COVID Symptom, Study Says.

Don't use a counterfeit KN95 mask.

Happy business coworkers greeting with elbow while wearing protective face masks due to coronavirus epidemic.
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KN95 masks can filter up to 95 percent of particles in the air "when they meet the right requirements," according to the CDC. Unfortunately, there is a large chance that a KN95 mask you own may not actually be this effective. The CDC notes that at least 60 percent of KN95 masks circulating in the U.S. may be counterfeit or fake, as the CDC's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has found that they don't meet the requirements they claim to meet. And for more guidance from this agency, The CDC Says These 3 Side Effects Mean Your Vaccine Is Working.

There are a few ways you can determine if your KN95 mask is counterfeit.

portrait of a woman wearing protective face mask in accordance with the European health guidelines FFP2/KN95
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KN95 masks are respirators regulated by the Chinese government—similar to N95 masks, which are regulated by the U.S. Avilash Cramer, PhD, a recent graduate from the Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology program and a volunteer with PanFab, told NPR that it can be hard to detect a fake KN95 mask, but there are some steps you can take. According to Cramer, if the packaging of your KN95 masks says it's NIOSH-approved, it's most likely fake. NIOSH is a U.S. government agency that wouldn't approve a mask made to another country's regulation standards. Instead, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized (not approved) some KN95 masks for emergency-use authorization in the country, since the CDC asks that N95 masks be reserved for healthcare workers. And the FDA keeps a running list of all the masks it has authorized for emergency use, which you can cross-reference to see if the model you have is on the list. And for more masks to avoid, The CDC Warns Against Using These 6 Face Masks.

Best Life is constantly monitoring the latest news as it relates to COVID-19 in order to keep you healthy, safe, and informed. Here are the answers to your most burning questions, the ways you can stay safe and healthy, the facts you need to know, the risks you should avoid, the myths you need to ignore,and the symptoms to be aware of. Click here for all of our COVID-19 coverage, and sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.
Kali Coleman
Kali is an assistant editor at Best Life. Read more
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