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Brooke Hudspeth, PharmD, serves as Chief Practice Officer at the University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy. Hudspeth answers frequently asked questions regarding best practices for wearing and storing KN95 face masks. 

Who should wear a mask and why?

Even if you’re vaccinated, it is still recommended that you wear a mask, especially if you are in large crowds or you’re in indoor spaces. You can still contract or spread COVID-19. We know that vaccines are very effective in preventing severe consequences from COVID-19. It is also important that you take other measures such as wearing a mask, maintaining physical distancing, and washing your hands appropriately so that we can use all the tools that we have to help mitigate the consequences we see from the COVID-19 virus.

What is different about the KN95 masks?

We know that there are different types of masks with varying levels of protection. If we want a higher level of protection, then we look to the KN95 or N95 respirators. These provide the highest level of protection against the spread of the COVID-19 virus and are what you have received from the University. You must make sure that it is fitting appropriately and is something you will not be taking on and off multiple times per day.

How long can a KN95 mask be worn before replacing it?

KN95 and N95 respirators often have manufacturer recommendations regarding how we can safely wear, clean, and store those masks. Although most are disposable in nature, you can wear these masks until they are loose-fitting, damaged, or become dirty. At that point, you will discard that mask and not use it again.

Is it possible to clean a KN95 mask to extend its use?

While KN95 masks can’t be thrown into the washing machine or hand washed with water like our cloth masks, it’s still important to note that they can be re-worn if they remain clean. You can store it in a brown paper bag, but I would recommend against storing it in a sealed bag. Leave it in a safe place and then you can wear it again when it’s time to re-don the mask. Do not wash your N95 or put it in the oven or microwave to try to sterilize it. 

What’s the proper way to put on a KN95 mask?

The most important thing is that we wear our mask correctly and that it fits correctly. The KN95s you received will come folded and flat. The first thing you want to do is thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water. You want to inspect the mask to make sure there are no areas of damage and that it is clean. You will unfold the mask completely, then make sure you are handling the mask mostly from the outside. Put it over the bridge of your nose and the cup of your chin, holding the outside, and then place each strap around your ears. The masks have a metal nose bridge which you will push down with your hands to make sure that it fits snug across the bridge of your nose on both sides.  

Once you have the mask on you will do a self-check to ensure that it is not leaking and is fitting with the proper seal. You will cup both hands over the mask and make sure that as you breathe out the air is not leaking from the edges. When you take a deep breath in the mask should move in towards your face with the breath.

What is the best way to remove and store a KN95 mask between uses?

When you take off the mask you want to make sure that you don’t touch the exterior of the mask because that is the area that is going to be most contaminated. You will take the mask off by removing each earloop in both hands, pulling it together slightly, and putting it in your brown paper sack to store it in a safe, secure place, or you will dispose of it into a trash receptacle.

When should KN95 masks be replaced?

While most masks are disposable in nature, you can wear the KN95 masks multiple times, so long as it is clean and has a proper fit, and you aren’t having any issues with breathing through the mask. However, if you notice that it becomes dirty, your straps become loose and it doesn’t have a snug fit, or if you have issues with breathing through the mask, those would all be signs that it’s time to dispose of your mask.

How do you spot a verified KN95 mask?

There are masks that undergo tests and are produced in such a way that ensures a certain level of protection and quality.  As such, when they undergo those tests, they have specific markings and you can find a list of those markings and their qualifications on the CDC website.

What are some other safe practices to consider?

While masks are an extremely valuable tool to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, there are other measures we can take to keep us safe. One of those measures is the vaccine. We highly encourage getting your vaccine and booster if you are eligible to do so. It is also important to try to physically distance as much as possible and avoid large crowds as best as you can, especially during times when transmissibility is high. Make sure you are continuing to practice proper hygiene by washing your hands thoroughly. Know the signs and symptoms of COVID-19, get tested, and stay home if you're feeling sick or have been exposed.

We wish to remember and honor those who inhabited this Commonwealth before the arrival of the Europeans. Briefly occupying these lands were the Osage, Wyndott tribe, and Miami peoples. The Adena and Hopewell peoples, who are recognized by the naming of the time period in which they resided here, were here more permanently. Some of their mounds remain in the Lexington area, including at UK’s Adena Park.

In more recent years, the Cherokee occupied southeast Kentucky, the Yuchi southwest Kentucky, the Chickasaw extreme western Kentucky and the Shawnee central Kentucky including what is now the city of Lexington. The Shawnee left when colonization pushed through the Appalachian Mountains. Lower Shawnee Town ceremonial grounds are still visible in Greenup County.

We honor the first inhabitants who were here, respect their culture, and acknowledge the presence of their descendants who are here today in all walks of life including fellow pharmacists and healthcare professionals.