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How many times can I reuse my N95 mask?

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS ILLUSTRATION / PETER HAMLIN

    ASSOCIATED PRESS ILLUSTRATION / PETER HAMLIN

NEW YORK >> How many times can I reuse my N95 mask?

It depends, but you should be able to use the N95s and KN95s a few times.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says healthcare professionals can wear an N95 mask up to five times. But experts say how often the average person can safely wear one will vary depending on how it is worn.

For example, using the same mask to run to the grocery store is very different from wearing it all day at work.

The amount of time a mask is worn is more important than how often it is worn, says Richard Flagan, who studies masks and aerosols at the California Institute of Technology.

In general, he recommends limiting the use of an N95 mask to about two or three days.

For every breath you take in an N95, particles accumulate on the mask, Flagan says. It may make it harder to breathe if the mask has trapped many particles.

"They degrade the performance of the mask," says Flagan.

The elastic band on the mask can also get worn and not sit so close around your face. It can also get dirty or wet, especially if you use it while exercising.

If you notice any of these changes on your mask, it's time to stop using it - even if you've only used it for a few hours. And since N95 masks are not washable, they should be thrown away when you can no longer use them.

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