Looking for N95 Masks In Stock? [See What the FDA and CDC are Saying]

After a year and a half in the pandemic, between lockdowns and vaccines, everyone has heard a lot about masks. With a slew of information about everything from cloth bandanas to heavy-duty gas masks, it can be difficult to find what you need to know, but above all this confusion one kind of mask has reigned supreme: The N95 Mask.

With the release of numerous variations of vaccines for Covid-19, it may seem like masks will slowly fade back into obscurity, but this isn’t the case. The Delta variant is the new problem on the horizon, and recently the CDC recommended wearing a mask, even if you are vaccinated

N95 Masks are considered the best balance between comfort and usability, and protection against disease.

For those in the medical field, understanding what makes a mask can be vital to your safety. For this guide, we answer frequently asked questions, give you insight, and recommend a reliable manufacturer that offers an innovative mask.  

What is an N95 respirator mask?

There are numerous types of masks, and even more titles and codes that can be applied to them. Breaking it down, N95 is a US standard that is applied to a mask and shows it has been approved under these standards. Any type of mask or design can be an N95 if it meets these standards.

This is where other mask types differ, international standards vary slightly, and masks such as KN95, FFP2, and FFP3s are not placed under this same standard. They can range in quality control and effectiveness under a different standard, and while some are as effective, or more effective, than N95s they aren’t tested in the US and given ratings.

This also means N95 is not the only mask that is approved to prevent illness and is more of a baseline in the US. We also have N99, N100, P95, and more, all of which filter particles to a varying extent and all of which are NIOSH approved just like the N95.

For more information and definitions, check out the CDC guide on the different mask types.

       
Mask Type Surgical Mask N95 Respirator  Elastomeric Half Facepiece Respirator
Approval     Cleared by the FDA  Approved by NIOSH Approved by NIOSH
Intended Use     Protects the wearer against large droplets, splashes, or sprays. Protects the patient from the wearer's respiratory emissions. Reduces the wear's exposure to particles, including small particle aerosols and large droplets (only non-oil aerosols). A reusable device made of synthetic or rubber material.
Face Seal Fit      Loose fit  Tight fit  Tight fit
Fit Testing Required      No  Yes  Yes
Reusable      No  No  Yes
User Seal Check      No  Yes. Required each time the respirator is donned.  Yes. Required each time the respirator is donned.
Filtration     Does NOT provide the wearer with a reliable level of protection from inhaling smaller airborne particles. It is not considered respiratory protection.  Filters at least 95% of airborne particles, including large and small particles. May be equipped with filters that block 95%, 99%, or 100% of very small particulates. Also may be equipped to protect against vapors and gases.
Leakage      Leakage occurs around the edge of the mask (as the wearer inhales). When properly fitted and donned, minimal leakage occurs around the edges of the respirator (as the wearer inhales). When properly fitted and donned, minimal leakage occurs around the edges of the respirator (as the wearer inhales).
Use Limitations     Disposable. Discard after each patient encounter. Discard after each patient encounter and/or after aerosol-generating procedures. Discard if becomes damaged/deformed; if no longer forms an effective seal to the face; becomes wet, visibility dirty; contaminated with blood, respiratory or nasal secretions, or other bodily fluids. Reusable, Must be cleaned/disinfected. Must be stored between each patient interaction. 

 

Learn more from the CDC about the differences between each mask

What is NIOSH?

The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) was established in 1970, and is the branch of the CDC in charge of research and recommendations for health in the United States. They determine safety standards that are not law or the bare minimum, but rather what regulators should aspire too. The standards set by NIOSH determine what a mask is rated, and how the CDC and the FDA develop their own regulations. 

How do I know if an N95 mask is real?

The only method to assure a mask is real and up to standards is research. The CDC publishes multiple resources that can be used to verify masks and their manufacturers. You can find one of our manufacturers, Advanced Concept Innovations, on this CDC Surgical N95 Respirators list. This is one of many articles and lists provided to verify the integrity of the mask.

It is important to not blindly trust labels on products either. Over the course of the last 18 months the CDC has had to crack down on dozens of companies that began to market non-approved masks as though they had received NIOSH approval. You can view a few examples of this here on the CDC website. And while KN95s were once approved for emergency use, the FDA no longer has this product listed under their Emergency Use Authorization. (You can still buy previously approved KN95s where in stock).

What type of mask does the FDA recommend?

The CDC recommends, for all medical professionals, wearing a NIOSH Approved N95 respirator or a respirator that NIOSH has stated offers the same level of protection or better to the wearer. 

For those who don’t work in the medical field, it’s best that you assess your own level of risk. Many sources recommend that if you are going for a walk in the park, you don’t need an N95 mask. But if you are an essential worker and/or come in contact with the public for your job, you should wear an N95, or equivalent, mask. 

Where can I buy N95 masks?

N95 Masks can most reliably be purchased at U.S.-based medical supply stores. Rehabmart has N95 masks for sale that are newly manufactured, tested, and certified by NIOSH, and available in small and bulk quantities. When buying N95 masks, you should be able to verify the expiration date of the masks as well as if they are actively listed on the N95 NIOSH-approved list.

How should an N95 mask fit?

In order to provide the highest level of protection, N95 masks not only need to be made in certain ways but worn a certain way. An adequate N95 needs:

  • A moldable nose bridge
  • Straps to hold it steady and in place
  • A strong seal over the mouth and nose

It is important that you wear a mask correctly because if worn incorrectly it might negate any benefits of having the mask in the first place. The greatest example is wearing a mask over the mouth but not the nose. It offers no protection against particles you breathe in or exhale from the nose and renders the entire mask basically useless.

A proper N95 will feature everything needed to secure it tightly over both the mouth and nose.  

What is the most comfortable N95 mask?

Now, here’s the answer that no one really wants to hear.

No viable N95 mask is going to feel very comfortable.

As we just discussed, these respirators are designed to be tight and unmovable. They seal onto your face and don’t wiggle or adjust as you’d like. If the masks weren’t in your way or attached to you firmly then, yes, they might be comfortable, but they would also be useless. For masks to effectively protect you, they need to be a bit uncomfortable.

That’s not to say that some aren’t more comfortable than others, and as the pandemic draws on, not only are people getting more used to wearing them, companies are getting better at adjusting them. Straps have gotten more comfortable, designs have been tweaked to let air flow in ways that are less irritating, and the materials have gotten softer.

NIOSH N95 Respirator Surgical Masks in Stock - Made in USANIOSH N95 Respirator Surgical Masks in Stock - Made in USA

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A prime example of this is the new, innovative “Duck-bill” mask from Advanced Concept Innovations, that company we mentioned earlier. This mask shows just how much companies are investing in new masks.

With a unique horizontal shape, the duckbill looks kind of like a pouch or a, well, duck's bill, and that may seem strange at first.

However, don’t let appearances scare you off. These masks are rated N95s and NIOSH approved, and this strange shape is actually one of the best features. With the large space, and the change from most masks cup shape, the Duck-bill is one of the most comfortable masks on the market, and with all the stability and security of a stereotypical face mask. 

How do I put on an N95 mask?

Check out these images of how to don a cup-shaped N95 and a duck-bill N95. 

How to don a duckbill N95:

How do I put on a N95 mask

 How to don a cup-shaped N95:

 

Is wearing a face shield as protective as wearing a mask?

Face shields look nice, and I’m sure we’ve all seen them plenty in television and film. TV Doctors wear them all the time, and they’re doctors after all, aren’t they?

Well, no. They’re actors.

In reality, face shields are a great way to make sure your face is seen, and keep fluids off of it, but not a great way to protect yourself from airborne illness. When dealing with airborne illness face respirators or masks work so well because they not only offer a barrier to viruses and bacteria but filter the air that you breathe. This removes particles and keeps you from getting sick.

Face shields provide a barrier but have no kind of filter to protect you beyond that barrier. Airborne illnesses are, as the name implies, airborne. A shield may stop large particles like saliva and the material from sneezing, but all the small germs linger in the air and can easily get around the sides and beneath a face shield. 

Don’t get us wrong, it’s better than nothing, but it still pales in comparison to the effectiveness of a properly filtered N95 respirator. 

Final Thoughts

With the public concern for health at an all-time high, for obvious reasons, it is key that you make informed decisions about what tools you use to protect yourself. Airborne diseases, whether they’re Covid-19, Influenza, or anything else, can put you and your loved ones at risk.

Keeping that in mind, it’s our job to make it easier than ever for you to stay healthy. We at RehabMart offer vetted, FDA, and NIOSH-approved N95 Masks for sale, and are doing our best to supply you with the tools that will keep you safe. 

It’s important that you always be sure you are making active decisions for the betterment of your health. Between vaccines and variants, we all have to make sure that we are informed and do our best to keep ourselves and our community healthy. 

Author:

Co-Founder of Rehabmart and an Occupational Therapist since 1993. Mike has spent his professional career working in multiple areas of Occupational Therapy, including pediatrics, geriatrics, hand therapy, ergonomics and inpatient / outpatient rehabilitation. Mike enjoys writing articles that help people solve complex therapeutic problems and make better product choices.

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