26 January 2022

The best masks for the Omicron outbreak

When you’re shopping for your next mask, here are the key things to consider.

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Barbara S.
19 Mar 2022
Masks and hearing aids

I wear both glasses and hearing aids. I have had some bad episodes with my behind the ear hearing aids getting tangled with the elastic, the worst being when I took my mask off in the rain and my hearing aid slammed onto the wet footpath and stopped working. Fortunately it started again after a while. Also, I changed the elastics on my home made cloth masks to loop behind the head. This took me minutes and and the mask now feels comfortable and fits better. Also I altered my double layer masks by adding an extra layer of polyester cotton on the inside, leaving it open at the sides, so I can insert a surgical mask as a filter. Getting there.

Steve B.
17 Feb 2022
shop around.

In the end I ordered 100 N95 masks direct form china at NZ$33 including shipping for the 100.

Far far to many rip off prices in NZ

Euan P.
20 Feb 2022
NZ has affordable face masks

Ordered from 'Off The Back' = $19.99 for box 10 & Postage.
Packages arrived in 5 days.
They are great.
Also look at Face Masks NZ on Google - lots of local options.

Josephine C.
16 Mar 2022
julie

China, this is the country where the virus was developed, one has to question all their products ?

Mike
15 Feb 2022
Stop Bagging Consumer NZ

Consumer NZ do an awesome job of reviewing and testing products and services for us, and giving us the results they find and their recommendations. It's up to US to finally decide which one is best for our Personal use. There is NO doubt that wearing a mask is Better than NOT wearing a mask. All of You doubters, do you wear a Seatbelt... Helmet... Gloves, to protect Yourself? Ask anyone who works in a Resthome, what happened to the flu (which kills many elderly) last winter, because we were all wearing masks. What we really need is a vaccine for Stupidity. I can see a few on here that should apply to be first to get the jab. WEAR A MASK...Stay Alive.

Rhonda G.
04 Feb 2022
MOH approved N95

For those of us in a medical setting, it would be nice to have a comparison of approved N95 masks, highlighting their protection vs breathability. Are there any approved masks for staff who find it difficult to breathe through any mask due to lung conditions, etc.?
Maybe A Consumer survey might help?

Rod
02 Feb 2022
Glasses over masks need extra protection too

Just a word of warning to those who put glasses over the top of a mask to help reduce fogging. I've found that this makes the nose tabs on the glasses totally ineffective at griping the nose; so the glasses are much more likely to fall off if suddenly pointing yr head downward. I recommend wearing a neck loop (sometimes called "eyewear retainers").

David A.
29 Jan 2022
Excellent article.

Thank you Consumer for an excellent article on masks. I have been scouring the internet over several months looking for good information on masks.

This article is the best I have seen. It's clear, concise, up to date and with information specific to New Zealanders.

Kathy S.
29 Jan 2022
Masks as a permanant feature.

I totally disagree with the premise that masks should become a permanent feature of our way of life. Our bodies evolved to develop immunity from exposure.

The only reason I accept mask wearing at he moment is Covid and it's variants are a completely new threat, no natural immunity. As we become vaccinated or exposed society will develop a natural immunity.

I believe a lot of modern "illnesses" are a result of being too clean. I trust the adage "you eat a peck of dirt before you die" natural exposure.

Jim P.
29 Jan 2022
Reply to Kathy S

Kathy, has your body evolved immunity to the influenza virus?

Paul L.
29 Jan 2022
Masks for ever?!

I agree Kathy. There’s something slightly off about someone who would suggest we adopt this practice for the rest of our lives Also, facetious reply from Jim P who misses the point completely. When Covid is as endemic and as liveable as the ‘flu then masks are a moot point for all those except the very frail and severely immuno-compromised.
I’m also surprised that this article doesn’t explain the properties of the surgical mask which are generally effective against droplet and not aerosol. My understanding is that the bigger fear with Covid is aerosol in which case the benefit of surgical masks is marginal, although admittedly better than nothing.

David A.
30 Jan 2022
Natural immunity to the coronavirus weakens over time

Good comment by Jim P.

Natural immunity to the coronavirus weakens over time, and does so faster than immunity provided by COVID-19 vaccination - https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/coronavirus/covid-natural-immunity-what-you-need-to-know

Teresa G.
29 Jan 2022
Jobmate Masks

Are these masks marked Lanxin nonmedical safe to avoid the virus?
Regards Teresa

Christine W.
29 Jan 2022
EN149:2001

I ordered enough N95 masks from a company in Newmarket for my whole family to have 5 each The Invoice said P2 N95 masks
Each actual mask is EN 149:2001 OM P2195
Says FFP2 NR on the mask packaging. Made by ORPHILA in China
The importer says they're equivalent
Should I return them? I paid $272.

Susan O.
12 Feb 2022
Refund

I sadly made the mistake of buying masks that arnt what they claimed.
I asked for a refund of all but the single packet I had opened and was told medical supplies don't get refunds. It's so very hard to know about the actual product before purchase and this was a costly mistake I cannot afford. Sadly too many people are making a great deal of money from fake goods during this pandemic. I personally wouldn't trust them but I haven't seen them. The best advice I saw on line was to test if they hold water when filled and secondly if sealing properly around your face air should only be transferring through the mask. As opposed to escaping out sides under the chin or around the nose, which even politicians on TV I see using as a means to breathe with more comfort.
It sadly isn't meant to be comfortable in heat even in summer if you are truly after proper protection.
I say this after wearing masks for a couple of years in operating theatres. And also now with a compromised health situation, so have looked far and wide.

Andrew R.
29 Jan 2022
Misinformation comments

What is Consumer practice about comments that are misinformation and dangerous to public health - eg those by James C and Trish C.

Trish C.
29 Jan 2022
Misinformation?

Exactly what in my comment is misinformation? I have asked questions, that is all. In all the other reports Consumer carries out they provide "Pros" and "Cons", but they have not done this in this case.

James C.
29 Jan 2022
Please stop quoting 'Experts'

Government, 'experts' and media are creating an environment of fear in NZ. This isn't necessary with 93% of eligible population fully vaccinated. By contrast the US is only about 63% vaccinated, hence their high winter rates of infection. Omicron does not pose a threat to the vast majority of NZ'ers. For the elderly and vulnerable with underlying conditions, yes, protect yourselves and use a mask. For all others, there is no need for masks.

Latest research shows those who have had Omicron have protection against Delta so we should be happy to have Omicron spreading in the summer before the onset of winter. Most will have only mild symptoms from Omicron.

Debbie R.
29 Jan 2022
Consideration for others

I disagree. Immunocompromised people need YOU to wear the mask so you don't spread it to them.

All the unfortunate people, like myself, who have a very good chance of dying from COVID, should not be happy to have Omicron spreading, which it already is. I am now at risk every time I have to leave the house because I don't know where it is.

"Most" will only have mild symptoms. What about the others? Wheel your grannies out to the curb? If you get cancer - too bad?

Trish C.
29 Jan 2022
For Debbie

What you have to say is exactly what my below comment is about. You need to be assured that the wearing of masks by the general public actually provides you with protection. This article does not address this. There is much disagreement amongst experts on this, and I was asking Consumer to address this.

Lorna E S.
29 Jan 2022
What latest research?

Importantly this article gives the sources of its information and names the local expert quoted toward the end of the article. I looked her up. Her latest publication (2021) was about filtration efficiency of 'single-use' commercial medical face masks and can be found here: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/annweh/wxab079

In order to be credible you need to identify your sources a little more precisely than "Latest research".

Debbie R.
29 Jan 2022
Reply to Trish

Actually, I don't "need to be assured that the wearing of masks by the general public actually provides you with protection". Anyone with enough brain cells to rub together can reason that stopping the flow of particles out of an infected cake-hole is going to be beneficial. I only wanted to know about which masks do the business, and Consumer has been helpful with that. (Thank you, Consumer.) I don't think it's up to them to answer all the questions in the known universe. They can publish whichever articles and tests they so choose. They are not being political; they are being helpful to the majority of us who recognise logic and reason. Everyone I know isn't "complying" because we are told to, they are doing so for the greater good. Why do you not care about the greater good?

Trish C.
29 Jan 2022
For Debbie

But do they "stop the flow of infected particles out of an infected cake hole"? We are talking about aerosolised particles orders of magnitude smaller than a human hair. The very fact that you can breathe while wearing one means that these aerosolised particles are also escaping - through them, out the sides, up the top and down the bottom. I presume you do care about whether these are doing "the business", and I'm just suggesting that this article is not informative in that respect. If mask wearing by the public was so effective at stopping transmission then this should have been over long ago, given that people have been wearing them in other countries for nearly two years now. But - whatever - if you have confidence in the information presented here then fine.

David A.
29 Jan 2022
Please continue quoting experts

It is better to get information from experts than from those who are not experts.

Paul L.
29 Jan 2022
For the greater good

Love that cliche - it’s almost like Hot Fuzz never happened!

Susan O.
12 Feb 2022
No we should NOT be happy to have it spread!

What about people with compromised health? And double vaccinated as well as booster is the best protection so far as vaccinations go.
Medical information coming out of the UK suggest much worse long Covid problems from Omicron.
It's an unknown.
That is a naive way to view this when so little is known in our country as yet!

Trish C.
29 Jan 2022
Some science re the benefits/harms

As a long time member of Consumer I am utterly disappointed in this article. Since when is it Consumer's role to blindly support government "rules"? I have belonged to Consumer for decades now, and expect the service provided to include critical appraisal of products, not just repeating the words of one "expert" as they appeared in the media. Is Dr Telfar Barnard a trained expert in industrial hygiene and the use of PPE? Did you think to critically appraise what she had to say? Did you consult an industrial hygienist or trained PPE specialist? Where is the evidence that these products, used by the public, have so far made any difference whatsoever to the spread of an infectious respiratory disease - in this case Covid-19? The signals from around the world would suggest not. How much protection (both source control and to the wearer), if any, do these objects provide over and above that already provided by our very own in-built "mask" - the upper respiratory tract immune system. Is there any harm caused by covering the entrances to the upper respiratory tract immune system? Does covering the nose and mouth result in physiological changes (such as a change in humidity in the nasal passages etc) which affects the functioning of this system? How does the wearing of these by children and others around them affect the cognitive development of children? How are people who are hard of hearing impacted by the entire population covering half their face? What are the health effects of people wearing n95 masks as part of their daily life? The FDA and OSHA guidelines in the US are that people wearing n95 masks require assessment first to ensure that they are medically fit to wear them. They also need to be fit tested to be of any use. Any mention of that in this article? It would be impossibly burdensome and totally impractical and hugely expensive to do this for the people who are now mandated (mandated!!!) to wear these things. Has the practicality and effectiveness of these rules and mandates been examined by ANYONE?? What are the overal harms/benefits? Where is the science to support mask wearing by the public? (Mechanistic studies in a laboratory do not represent in vivo use). I would have thought that this was your job here, Consumer, not to support of what is basically government propaganda. It's bad enough having the media just quoting these "experts" without any critical appraisal - I'm disappointed that Consumer appears to be no better. Please do your job.

Paul L.
29 Jan 2022
The whole story

I agree - there seems to be a blind following of whatever the narrative du jour is. A little while ago I can remember one government minster commenting on not having masks in schools as the constant adjusting or taking off and putting on was worse than having no mask at all. Worries with touching your face continually and the proximity thereof to your nose, mouth and of course, eyes. Don’t hear that since the narrative changed - or as the Prime Minister said the other day ‘the science has been updated’. How nice to have science updated daily - never used to be like that.

I’m surprised there is little mention in the article of eyes being exposed and how this is as effective an entry point for this particular virus. The ideal of course being a full face visor type mask with an N95 underneath.
Just look at what the health professionals are wearing when they come to test you. Are they relying on one type of protection?
Also, consider that N95 type masks must be fitted correctly to be effective. In a previous life it was the responsibility of one of my teams to fit masks to health professionals dealing with Covid. Each fit session took between 20-45 minutes. So think on that. And did I mention that if you have facial hair you significantly impact their effectiveness? So many things to consider but, like most other things, we like it all wrapped up in a 2 or 3 minute read and leave out all the tricky bits. Don’t get me wrong - doing something is better than nothing but don’t think that if you follow this advice you’ll be bullet proof: you won’t.

Christine S.
29 Jan 2022
International advice on surgical masks...

To address some of the stirrers: There is in fact a lot of research out there on the effectiveness of mask use in reducing infection, which is what the current (international) advice to mask up is based on (because we know it's one of the easy things we can do that actually works - just think that things would be way worse without them and how we e.g. also currently reduced incidence of the flu mostly because of improved hygiene protocols. The Mythbusters episode on cold/ disease transmission is recommended viewing in this context!)

It's worthwhile pushing this guardian article again that someone mentioned previously. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/dec/27/best-masks-covid-tests-cloth-surgical-respirators

Thanks for addressing the issue of valved masks - this has been missed in a lot of recently articles and publications on the topic.

What irks me is the continued promotion of surgical masks, which usually fit poorly (loads of airgaps...) and don't have a great track record for protecting the wearer against infection (but are ok at protecting the environment from the wearer's aerosols, but so are clothmasks - in fact, some oversease studies have concluded that surgical masks are at the bottom of the recommendation list, below cloth). Not all clothmasks are created equal, which should be acknowledged somewhere.

Ryan W.
28 Jan 2022
KF94 vs KN95

I feel like KN95 and KF94 should not be put in the same basket. While they are both good standards, unlike KN95, the Korean KF94 are very well regulated so long as they originate from Korea - and as such there are much fewer counterfeit masks. There is also a Korean database that can be checked to ensure the product has been approved. Just don't get the ones that come from or via China.

Trevor B
20 Jan 2022
N95 versus PM2.5 filters

I note that in the comments to date there is not much about filter inserts. I have purchased reusable masks which have a pocket for filters, and a supply of PM2.5 filters. The PM2.5 is almost as effective as N95. Note that both filter types are not reusable. They use electrostatic properties to filter and washing will degrade or destroy the properties. I have found some studies which describe sanitising techniques but I am not convinced.
A good explanation can be found at https://www.purakamasks.com/pm25-filters#certification
PM2.5 filters are readily available in NZ, are a standard size, and cheap.

Ryan W.
28 Jan 2022
Filters need to fit

Filter inserts need to fit from edge to edge of the mask - as air will come in via the path of least resistance.

Fiona H.
23 Feb 2022
PM2.5 Filters

It is concerning that Puraka Masks are testing their own filters. In fact they mention in the description that they "rigged up" their own test. It was not done by an independent laboratory which would be much more reliable.
Also, they referred to the Chinese standard, GB/T 32619, on YouTube. This is not a medical standard in China. It is the Chinese standard for the Specifications For Information Disclosure Coding Of Government Affairs Service Centres.
They may have meant GB/T 32610 which is the technical specifications for daily protective masks which give the lowest form of respiratory protection.

Linda H.
08 Jan 2022
Which mask is the most efficient at keeping us safe but not necessarily the prettiest?

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/dec/27/best-masks-covid-tests-cloth-surgical-respirators

This has more information for you than this consumer article.

C-LR
15 Jan 2022
Reply to link about guardian information.

Thank you for this link to guardian article. Bizarre article from Consumer doesn't deal with issues and telling me what Consumer staff are wearing is no help at all without some kind of indication about what is best.

Elizabeth G.
12 Nov 2021
Masks while biking

I'm surprised you've quoted someone wearing a mask while biking in a southerly. My understanding is that this is not necessary?

Anne S.
24 Dec 2021
Excessively cautious

I agree

Kirstie P.
31 Oct 2021
What is suitible for a filter layer in a mask?

Like many others I made masks last year with limited supplies. Some have a middle layer of non woven fabric (vilene), others have a pocket for adding a filter. I've been using a folded tissue. Are any of these suitable? If not, what is? There has been little practical advice on the subject.

Miranda B.
31 Oct 2021
What about filter inserts - I haven't seen any for sale anywhere?

My cotton mask has a place to put a filter between the layers but I have not seen any filters for sale anywhere. Where do we get these and what ones are best?

Fiona H.
09 Nov 2021
Filter Inserts

If you search online there are NZ suppliers of these filters. I have also seen them for sale on Trade Me. It is difficult to say which ones are best. Generally, they are not certified to a medical standard so they have either not been tested or failed to meet an applicable standard.

Chrissy W.
31 Oct 2021
Wear your mask correctly

I see a lot of people wearing masks upside down and back to front.
The medical blue and white disposable or homemade that have folds should be worn with the folds/pleats facing downwards so that any droplets or aerosols do not sit in the folds, blue side on the outside and of course the adjustable band on the top.
There is no instructions on how to wear a mask on the wrapping or boxes the masks come in.

lynda S.
21 Dec 2021
Mask wearing...

...Just a personal opinion, but from someone with a medical background, if immune-compromised (like I am) no way will I wear anything other than a KN95 or N95 mask. These too can be washed (by hand - I use a few Lux flakes) & dried thoroughly in the sun. I don't wash more than 5 times. Good idea too if you're wearing one of the 'pretty' masks to use a surgical underneath as stated in the article- to wear a cotton mask by itself is next to useless (especially once Omicron is here).

Martin G.
23 Oct 2021
Standards

You could have provided more information about what the standards mean. I found this link useful https://www.euromarc.co.nz/resources/do-kn95-and-n95-disposable-masks-match-nz-p2-standards

Joanne H.
21 Oct 2021
Smaller faces

I was so disappointed that this article did not address the fact that for some of us the recommended disposable masks do not fit our faces at all. I have a small face, and for me they not only gape at the sides (even worse with straps twisted), and rub on my cheekbones (my skin actually broke down on my cheeks last year) and constantly slide up over my eyes. It drives me crazy!!! Can some smart people please look into this? I would pay a lot for a comfortable mask that fits.

Bindy B.
30 Oct 2021
Small mask

New world sell a brand that comes in a child size which fits my adult face and is double tight woven cotton. . They have a pocket for a filter which covered most of not all of the breathable area and have a nose wire. My issue is getting a filter that is reliable. They come with FM70/130 but so far I haven’t found a proper description of where that sits in the standards.

Mike H.
21 Oct 2021
Rivenguard

Anyone used these expensive masks. They have a valve in the side. Are they still good with delta though?
The company seems to have shut shop when I tried to find the url or contact

Fiona H.
09 Nov 2021
Face masks with valve

The Ministry of Health does not recommend the use of face masks with valves (you have to dig deep to find this info though). This link explains why: https://www.nist.gov/news-events/news/2020/11/new-airflow-videos-show-why-masks-exhalation-valves-do-not-slow-spread

The Gadfly
18 Oct 2021
Sonovia masks

Has anybody had experience with the Israeli developed SonoMasks.
https://sonoviastore.com/apps/help-center#hc-what-makes-the-sonomask-unique

Linda H.
17 Oct 2021
Masks and Hearing Aids

What is the best type of mask for people with hearing aids that is also effective.
Lost one hearing aid two weeks ago and while I retraced my steps and checked with places visited it was to no avail. Face mask would have been on entering venues and off shortly after leaving. Talking with our audiologist it is a reasonably common occurence.

John Miller C.
17 Oct 2021
How to protect your hearing aids

How gutting to lose a hearing aid, Linda H.! My advice and personal practice: any type of mask is fine SO LONG AS you don't put its loops over your ears! INSTEAD run a loop of elastic through the mask loops so that you form one continuous elastic band. Put that over your head, taking care when you remove it to keep it away from your ears and aids.

Yvonne
16 Oct 2021
Wool masks made in NZ

Lanaco is a company that makes high quality wool insert masks that are comfortable. The wool is from sheep raised in the South Island with fibers specifically suited to air filters. Their masks were worn by the NZ Olympic team in Tokyo & they are available from a variety of retailers.

Elizabeth C.
16 Oct 2021
Help!

Any advice for people who wear glasses and, especially, people who wear hearing aids?

Yvonne
16 Oct 2021
mask ties & hearing aids

ear loop ones are ok if you don't take them off often, ties stay away from aids but can be hard on the hardo. The key is to get a good tight mask fit over the nose to make the mask effective but also to prevent fogging of eyeglasses

John Miller C.
17 Oct 2021
How to protect your hearing aids

Elizabeth C., see my reply to Linda H. above.

Kate H.
18 Oct 2021
Re: help

Hi Elizabeth, there's a bit in the article about choosing a mask that goes high enough up your face to sit under your glasses to prevent fogging. There are lots of ideas on the internet about washing your glasses in the kitchen sink or de-fogging solutions you can buy - but we haven't tested these. As for avoiding hearing aids, apparently masks with elastic or ties that go around the back of your head can help.
Kate Harvey,
Consumer NZ staff.

Karl O.
16 Oct 2021
plastic visors instead of masks

why is there nothing about visors. People who cant wear masks could probably wear these visors. I have seen a few in use and are probably ,more effective as they cover you your eyes

Jill G.
17 Oct 2021
Visors

Visors are only to be used as eye protection, not as a substitute for a well fitted mask. If you wear a visor then you still need to wear a mask as well.

Kate H.
18 Oct 2021
Re: visors

Hi Karl, there is a bit in there about visors/shields. The advice is they shouldn't be worn on their own but when worn with a face mask they offer extra eye protection.
Kate Harvey,
Consumer NZ staff.

Helen C.
16 Oct 2021
Fabric masks

Here are some hacks : If people are making fabric masks, they might like to consider a silk outer or inner layer. It’s light and breathable, comfortable, and hydrophobic. Also needs to be hand washed. You can improve the fit around the nose of home made masks by inserting florist wire (ends looped) or pipe cleaners at the top when you make them. SpotLight are selling washable mask grade polypropylene mesh for the middle layer. “Boning” keeps the mask pushed away from your face and increases the area of fabric to filter air (hence breathability).

Diane D.
16 Oct 2021
When to wear a mask

When was this article written because currently you do have to wear a mask at the hairdressers.

Kate H.
18 Oct 2021
Re: when to wear a mask

Hi Diane, I wrote it just last week. I took the advice from a few government websites - please let me know if you have seen an official website that says otherwise.
Kate Harvey,
Consumer NZ staff.

John M.
16 Oct 2021
Getting a mask that fits one's nose and chine profile can be a challenge.

I've had problems finding a mask that does not slip down from the ridge of my nose. Some are much better than others. The masks that have come closest to doing the job are the Wagner adult (but it still slips down if I am not careful), and the 3M P2 (but I have to position it quite carefully).

Geoff W.
16 Oct 2021
good fitting mask

Have you tried the 3 D Origami style reusable mask? These fit really well.

Robin B.
09 Oct 2021
Are face visors effective at stopping droplets from mouth and nose

A few people are wearing these face visors and no mask, with the belief that this will stop droplet spread. I think they are dreaming. A well fitting mask stops droplet from mouth and nose being expelled to other people close by. A face visor stops some droplet from other people entering the eye and infecting the wearer

Yvonne
16 Oct 2021
visors

visors have not been shown to be very effective for droplet or aerosols - they mostly prevent splashes. Many are disposable so not good for the environment

Kate H.
18 Oct 2021
Re: face visors

Hi Robin, yes you're right that visors aren't good enough on their own. It says in the article that visors/shields offer added eye protection but need to be worn with a mask.
Kate Harvey,
Consumer NZ staff.

Alastair B.
09 Oct 2021
Which standards are OK?

I have older ones bought during SARS - 3M 9320 masks...they are compliant to standard EN149:2001. Are these better than the cloth ones? Does the new EU standard differ in a significant way?

What actually is a N95 mask...what does it look like...I assume the ones in the illustration are not N95 compliant. It's all a bit confusing still (to me anyway)!

Jill G.
17 Oct 2021
3M masks

The 3M 9320 mask you describe is actually an N 95 mask and a very good one at that. It needs to be fitted very carefully on application. However, this is a single use mask.