Medical experts explain which masks are best for smoky conditions, COVID-19

Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) – Between wildfire smoke and COVID, medical experts say it’s never been more important to wear a mask but the internet is filled with multitudes of different kinds of masks, so which one is best.  

Experts say if the issue is smoke caused by wildfires, N95’s should be your choice because they are best to filter out the smoke particles that can cause a variety of health problems, and increase your risk of COVID-19. 

“Studies have shown just being exposed to wildfire smoke can increase your chances of getting COVID and were responsible for thousands of deaths in Washington Oregon and California during wildfire season of 2020,” Dr. Peter Chin-Hong said.  

But UCSF Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Peter Chin-Hong says the N95 you select, should not be one that has a valve in front. 

“They are one-way valves, meaning you are protected when you breathe in the air, but somebody is not protected from you so although good for wildfire and construction, not good for covid protection of your community,” Dr. Chin-Hong said.

If smoke is not an issue, medical experts say N95’s remain your best protection from COVID-19 and should be used when working indoors where there’s poor ventilation.  

However, they can be uncomfortable and make breathing more difficult.  

If ventilation is good or if your indoor activity is brief such as for grocery shopping, experts say KN95’s, made in China may be more comfortable and do the trick but there are still other options. 

“You can get a surgical mask, fit it over your face and then get a cloth mask and put it over your surgical mask, the so-called double masking,” Dr. John Swartzberg said.  

UC Berkeley Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. John Swartzberg says this type of double masking can be effective as well. 

“That gives two barriers and it also gives you tighter seal because a surgical mask will seal in one place and a cloth will seal in another so it gives you a tighter seal so you are not sucking the air in,” Dr. Swartzberg said.  

While there is a different mask for specific circumstances, medical experts say the key thing is to make sure you wear one, especially inside.

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