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Where to buy N95, FFP2 and FFP3 face masks for increased protection against COVID-19

Advice about face masks has changed now that we understand more about the spread of coronavirus

With the tightening of restrictions and the new Omicron variant, face masks are still here to stay – and will likely be part of our everyday existence for a good while yet.

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We’ve learned a lot about how face masks can protect us against the spread of Coronavirus, but naturally, the advice surrounding masks has changed and many people are looking to update their face coverings. Here's what you need to know about higher grade face masks such as N95, FFP2 and FFP3 face masks and where to buy them for increased protection against COVID-19.

Which face mask or covering is best to wear?

Cloth masks have been the norm for so long, and last year the government advised the general population to use them instead of medical-grade masks because of fear of shortages for medical staff.

The government website no longer carries this recommendation, so now, people are turning to higher grade face masks, such as surgical face masks, N95, FFP2, and FFP3 face masks - these offer better protection for the wearer against the spread of coronavirus than cloth masks.

In fact, The British Medical Association (BMA), Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association (HCSA) and Doctors’ Association UK are calling for frontline personnel to be given FFP3 masks instead of the standard surgical masks to help them avoid getting infected during the Omicron rise.

With current figures indicating that one is 25 people have covid, coming into contact with someone who has the virus as you go about your day seems almost inevitable, so it's a good idea to have some masks on hand with high protection. Keep reading to find out more about them.

What is the difference between a normal cloth mask and a surgical mask?

Pack of 100, 3 layer surgical mask, £7.95, Amazon

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Unlike cloth masks, surgical masks are water-resistant – so if someone coughs close to your face, water droplets should be blocked by the mask. They are one size fits all though, so people with smaller faces might find them loose-fitting.

It is possible to adjust the size by folding them in half and tying knots in the ear loops – as detailed by dentist Dr Olivia in the below video – to ensure a more snug, and safe fit.

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WATCH: How to properly adjust your surgical mask so it fits snugly and safely

Of course surgical masks are not washable, and ideally should be discarded after every use.

You can also buy strap extenders which make the masks smaller for children and those with small faces

Silicone face mask adjuster, £1.89, eBay

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What is an FFP3 mask?

An FFP3 mask is one that contains a filter. FFP stands for Filtering Face Piece. FFP1, FFP2 and FFP3 masks are the three grades of masks classified under the EN 149 European standard of testing and marking requirements for masks which filter the air. An FFP1 filters at least 80% of airborne particles, and FFP2 filters 94% and with an FFP3, that number rises to 99%.

An FFP2 mask has a similar performance requirement to the N95 masks worn in the US and the FFP3 has similar performance requirements to the American N99 masks – though there are some differences in test requirements.

In Austria, these types of masks are now required on buses and in other public areas, and in Germany, elderly people have been given them to go shopping.

How long can you wear an FFP3 mask?

The masks, which are commonly used by medics, are classified for single shift use – marked NR (not reusable) or R, re-usable (more than one shift). The NHS recommends medical staff to always dispose of the mask when it’s been separated from the face – but of course front-line medical staff are working in conditions where the risk of exposure to coronavirus is high.

These masks are not washable and must be disposed of after they’ve been used.

Where can I buy an FFP3 mask?

Both FFP3 and FFP2 masks are available from online retailers including Amazon and Ebay… keep scrolling for some options.

FFP3 / N99 Respirator masks with valve and cushioned lining, pack of 10, £19.20, Amazon

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Self-cleaning FFP2 respirator mask, from £6.88, är

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Leading face mask brand ar has launched what they've dubbed "The first designer FFP2 mask". It features antiviral technology which means that it's self-cleaning and can be worn for up to two weeks or 40 hours of cumulative wear. Those are great figures when you consider that disposable FFP2 masks should be thrown away ideally after each use. 

Black washable cotton 3 layer FFP2 face mask, was £15 now £13.95, Cradle Masks

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Looking for a washable, reusable FFP2? This incredibly breathable, all-black three-layer mask offers some of the best protection you will find available. It's is abrasion-resistant cotton on the outside and soft hydrophilic cotton on the inside to prevent skin irritation. A central 'melt blown' filter traps at least 98% of 0.3 micron particles including virus-laden airborne saliva, bacteria, dust and pollen. It's machine washable at 40C for up to 30 cycles, and features ergonomic contouring around the nose and chin plus an adjustable nose bridge for maximum seal.

Self Sterilising Anti Virus FFP2 Face Mask, was £15 now £14.95, Cradle Masks

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If you have no luck getting one of Cradle Mask's washable FFP2 masks, another good option is their self-sterilising (no need to wash) ViralOff mask, which is currently on sale. Already offering FFP2-standard protection with more than 99% filtration, the new three-layer mask is also treated with Polygiene ViralOff, an anti-viral treatment that reduces all viruses by 99% over two hours.

FFP2 / N95 and FFP3 / N99 masks, from £4.89 each, eBay

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Reusable FFP2 / N95 respirator mask, from £1.99 each – £1.89 each for four or more, eBay

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FFP3 / N99 Respirator masks pack of 10, £50.90, Amazon

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FFP2 masks for children

Children's FFP2 Protective Face Mask - £4.70, Cradle Masks

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Cradle also sell disposable FFP2 masks for children. This single use surgical style mask has three layers of a fine-filtering mesh textile which filter out 94% of particles. The mask is fluid resistant and protects against large droplets and virus-laden air borne moisture and saliva.

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