When do people usually wear an allergy mask?
People with allergies wear masks for all different types of indoor and outdoor activities. A very sensitive person may even have to wear a mask at all times. Some of the activities that an allergy mask can help you with are gardening, mowing the yard, vacuuming, raking leaves, sweeping hardwood floors, taking walks in park, jogging, bicycling, riding a motorcycle, commuting to work, working in an environment with pollution or fumes, other cleaning jobs, when the flu is effecting people, and anytime someone might be exposed to mold, mold spores or other allergens.
Masks work in the same way that air purifiers work. Mask filter media traps particles and pollutants as you breathe. Typically an allergy mask will be able to provide protection against common particle allergens like pollen, plant spores, pet dander, mold, house dust, and dust mites. Depending on the type of mask, the filter can also protect against irritants like tobacco smoke, cleaning agents, perfumes, soaps, paint, varnish, hydrocarbon pollution, arsenic, odors, and chemical air fresheners. Those coping with allergies, asthma, MCS and COPD know the breathing benefits of masks, but here are several other scenarios where a mask may help improve your breathing or provide protection:
- You should always wear a mask if you have to clean up mold, garbage, or anything that may seem toxic. Many people use bleach, and you should always wear a mask when cleaning with bleach. Both mold and bleach are harmful to everyone - allergy sufferers and non-allergy sufferers alike.
- City commuters on trains, airplanes, subways, bicycles, and walking surface streets, should consider wearing a mask to protect the lungs against urban air pollution and fumes. Emissions from vehicles, diesel fumes and industrial pollution are a primary driver of urban air pollution and ground level ozone.
- If you are sick but you cannot stay home, a face mask may help prevent you from spreading an infection or illness to others. They also help protect you from catching a virus if you are in crowded areas. Typically the CDC recommends N95 (or equivalent) rated masks or respirators to curb the spread of the flu virus and other communicable diseases.
- If you have asthma and enjoy being outside in colder temperatures, the Cold Weather Mask by ICanBreathe is designed for winter and outdoor uses. While also masks will trap some warmth, this the fleece Cold Weather Mask can help prevent the cold air from causing shortness of breath or a cold weather induced asthma attack.
There are so many types of masks in the market place that a decision about which mask to purchase can be overwhelming. As when purchasing any allergy product, it's helpful to learn how a mask works and what's involved in the differences between them.
When researching any mask it is important to note what type of filtration that the mask provides. We have masks with HEPA filtration, charcoal cloth filtration, carbon filters, and some with no filters (filter media is built right into the body of the mask or respirator). The 3M 6291 HEPA mask provides HEPA level filtration for any outdoor work or activity. The respirator itself will last a very long time because the filters are replaceable, and the body of this mask is made from durable but forgiving material. This respirator also offers some of the best particle filtration on the market. With NIOSH P100 rated filters, this 3M respirator will capture at least 99.97% of particles 0.3 microns or smaller (HEPA standard) and also works well in filtering oil based contaminants. There are a few types of HEPA respirators available from those with replaceable filters to those that are semi-disposable.
We also have the Respro Techno masks which combine an activated charcoal cloth filter with a HEPA-like filter. The filters for this mask meet the European equivalent of the N95 rating (as do Respro Sportsta and Allergy masks), which also makes it effective in protecting against the spread of H1N1, Avian and other strains of the influenza virus. Again, this type of mask has replaceable filters and a durable neoprene shell.
Further down the line of masks, there are those like the Silk Mask and Classic Vogmasks. These types of masks offer varying degrees of particle filtration starting at N99 rated and working down. All of these allergy masks are similar in that they lack replaceable filters and after a certain point need to be replaced. Though unlike true disposable respirators, you can get many uses out of the same mask and most can be hand washed to extend their life.
There are even organic cotton masks available, and while their filtration is less than that of masks or respirators made from synthetic materials, they do offer protection of larger allergens and work well for those sensitive to certain types of filter media and mask materials.
The best masks for city commuters have HEPA filters, HEPA like or filters that provide protection against fumes and oil-based air particles. All of the masks we carry from Respro work very well for commuters. The Respro Allergy mask and Bandit scarf provide solid air filtration. Each mask is a little different in materials and style so check out our Compare Allergy Relief Masks page for more information.
The best mask in our offering for more active outdoor activities is likely the Respro Techno mask. It stays put even during moderate to rigorous activity, offers excellent filtration and isn't as bulky as a traditional respirator.
Other masks are also appropriate under given circumstances. The new Vogmask fits well around the face and stays in place through moderate activity. The fact remains, though, that the more effective the filtration, the more restrictive a mask will be during rigorous activity, so finding the right balance is often a matter of trial and error.
We are asked this question, literally, almost every day. Because each mask is made differently, there really is no easy answer to this question. Some masks have adjustable straps, while some attach behind the head with Velcro. Others still have elastic straps that will stretch to fit most people. Getting the correct mask for your face size and your allergy needs is important not only because a snug fit is essential for the best filtration but also because masks are personal items which cannot be returned. Deciding which model and size is best for you will depend on several factors. You need to ask yourself several questions before purchasing:
- Is my face structure small (usually children), medium, or large?
- How often am I going to use this mask?
- What level of air filtration do I need?
- How much do I want to spend on an allergy mask?
- Am I allergic to the materials used to make the mask?
Answering these will help narrow your choices some and give you a better idea of what type and size of respirator or mask you should consider. In general though, most masks and respirators are one size fits all. Most will NOT fog glasses provided you fit the mask to your mask snugly and properly use the nose piece to seal around the nose and top of the cheeks. If you're target is common particle allergens like dust, mold spores, pollen, etc., N95 is fine for moderate cases with N99 rated or equivalent best for the more severe cases as well as industrial/work applications. If the target is particulate as well as smoke, odors, fragrances or fumes, look at those masks that have some type of activated carbon/charcoal in the filter, as only these masks will offer the filtration needed to adsorb these types of irritants.
The filters in an allergy mask, over time, will become less effective. Some masks, like the 3M 8233 Respirator are semi-disposable which means they can provide 60 or so hours of good use before you will want to consider tossing them out. Others, like the AllergyZone N95 Respirator, are disposable, meant for only a few uses at most. For those with replaceable filters, we have a Mask Replacement Filters page to make finding the correct replacement filter very easy for you. Typically, disposable filter type masks should be replaced after 60 hours of use or 3 months.
In general, we recommend you replace your filters or mask when you notice a decrease in filtration performance or smell solvents. This is referred to as "breakthrough." This means your filters have essentially captured as much particulate and toxic matter as they can and are now failing and allowing solvents to pass through. You should also replace your mask when breathing through the mask becomes more difficult, when the mask or filter is damaged, or when the face piece becomes unhygienic.
Filter and mask life will depend greatly upon several factors including, concentration of contaminants, humidity, temperature, ventilation and even breathing rates. All of these can work to decrease effective use time. Lastly, for respirator filters or masks with carbon, maximum use time is approximately 6 months. Even with light or infrequent use, these filters should be replaced since carbon can and will absorb contaminants from the general environment even when you are not wearing the mask or using the filter. As with all of our products, should you have a problem with a mask you purchased from us, contact customer service at 1-800-339-7123.
Yes, you can match up several masks depending on the level of your sensitivity. The founder of the mask company ICanBreathe has severe chemical sensitivities and breathing problems. She often wears a Silk Comfort Mask for everyday use, but she also keeps the very popular Honeycomb mask with her at all times.
The Honeycomb mask has better filtration because of the carbon filters. So unlike some masks or respirators, these help filter out odors, vapors, fragrance, and smoke. If she feels her breathing change based on environment changes, like someone smoking, she will change masks to help avoid the allergen and maintain her breathing. In short, your needs will vary and often certain tasks or jobs will require more or less filtration than others, so it is not a bad idea to have a couple different types of respirators or face masks on hand.
A few of the respirators we offer are very heavy duty, particularly the 3M 8233/8293 and 3M 6291. The 8233 and 8293 are HEPA rated masks, with the latter also blocking oil based particles (while the 8233 does not). These offer excellent protection from particulate in everyday as well as commercial settings. People who work in with commercial ceramics, food production, agriculture and a variety of other areas where ultrafine dust and particulate are common receive excellent protection with these respirators.
The 6291 respirator is also an excellent choice for those areas, with two advantages over the 8233/8293 masks. The body or shell of the 6291 respirator can be washed. More importantly, it has replaceable filters. It comes standard with top of the line P100 filters, but there are also a couple type of specialized cartridges available that target organic vapors as well as chemicals that commonly irritate MCS. These cartridges can be uses interchangeably with HEPA filters are often utilized by people working with chemicals, solvents, glues, paints, varnishes, and other chemicals.
Disposable masks are not meant to be cleaned, but with more expensive mask that use replaceable filters, cleaning the mask is very important. Each mask has cleaning and maintenance instructions on the packaging or in the directions. Follow these instructions very closely. Some, like the Organic Cotton mask, can be hand washed and used over and over again. The packaging of these masks also is important for sizing and fitting instructions.
Due to their light weight, most of our masks ship via USPS Priority Mail, and arrive within 2-4 days depending on your location. However, as with all of our products, expedited shipping is available and orders placed for over $150 get free ground shipping.
You should store your mask or respirator in a clean, dry area. A respirator does you little good if you get the inside dirty or contaminated with allergens. Speaking from experience, I have three different kinds of respirators that I use for various projects at work and around the house. I store each in separate sealed plastic bags in the closet of my garage. There I don't have to worry about direct sunlight possibly breaking down the filter media or water, dirt or allergens contaminating my mask or filters. They are clean, dry, and ready to use whenever I need them.
Am I forgetting anything about your allergy masks?
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