Illustration by Lyn Ong.

What is an N95 mask?

It’s a mask that should be 95% effective in blocking airborne particles of a certain size (larger than 0.3 microns).

Who should wear a mask?

Singapore’s Ministry of Health recommends that people wear the mask if they are outside for prolonged periods during “very unhealthy” levels of haze or for short periods at “hazardous” levels. Short exposure shouldn’t require a mask.

Because masks increase the difficulty of breathing, certain people should be cautious when using a mask: elderly people, people with lung or heart conditions, and women in the later stages of pregnancy, should consult doctors before using a mask.

N95 masks are also not designed for children. So, it’s best to limit outdoor exposure during the haze.

How do I wear an N95 mask?

In order to be effective, the mask should be as airtight as possible. Start by cupping the mask over your nose and mouth. Then pull the two bands back over your head, so that one band is high up on the head and the other lower, near your neck. Finally, mold the metal piece over your nose to fit your face shape.

What about other types of masks?

Other kinds of masks, like surgical masks, might help you to reduce the irritation of the particles in the air, but won’t filter the finer particles.

Where can I buy an N95 mask?

Pharmacies should stock N95 and other types of mask.

What else can I do?

The recommended advice is to stay indoors as much as possible and to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. An air purifier, with a filter to trap fine particles, can improve the quality of air indoors.

Source: Ministry of Health, Singapore and Prince Court Hospital