Extending the life of your masks

Masks, which one's right for you?

I am sitting in a hospital bed, awaiting a brochoscopy with biopsy to confirm a diagnosis of sarcoidosis and rule out lymphoma.  It's been years of fighting for answers. The last weeks I have gotten some. Now, learn from my experience.  

Since I was diagnosed with Interstitial lung disease, believed to be related to sarcoidosis, I have been adamant about wearing a mask. I should have been wearing one all the time, but like most of us, I wasn't.  I started wearing them while drying dogs several years ago, but there is hair, dander, flea product residue and just dirt in general in all areas of the grooming shops. 



This is the shelf at my local Lowe's store yesterday. Lots of empty spaces. Lots of questions. Which mask is best for our situation? It's kind of like a crap shoot. You make a decision and buy one. Hope it fits. Hope you can breathe and glasses fogging will be minimal. 

You hope. You are protected. 

That day as I stood looking for masks was a unique day because the worldwide shortage of surgical masks had extended to construction masks and dust masks. Coronavirus fears had wrecked havoc on the availability of the protective masks everywhere. Online, I could not even get replacement filters for my RZ mask and all Vogmasks were unavailable everywhere I looked.

So, I bought a supply of different types and brought them to work to figure out what worked, what didn't and what to look for. A kind of science experiment I guess. 

What to look for in filtration ratings: Niosh or N 95 or higher (ratings are on the boxes and sometimes the masks) is reccomended by experts to filter minute particles like fiberglass and dust. The hair slivers we produce are like fiberglass. Ever watched a dog shake with sunlight showing you every little sliver flying? Those are part of what we need protection from.  So, find a mask rated for 95 filtration. 

Then, fit. It HAS TO FIT, but it has to be comfortable.  I have not found the perfect mask. Probably not going to.  But I have found that if it fits well it is more likely to be worn. 

The photos below show what to look for. Sealed around the face. Fit near glasses. Sealed under the chin. If the mask doesn't seal, it's not worth wearing.  


This mask is a size too big, but I wear the right size filters inside.  I will be getting a medium when I can. They are currently unavailable.  


This one fits better. It is the 95 filtration mask from Home Depot. It fits better than the RZ. It fits under my glasses, seals under my chin. The double straps are not super comfortable but are not horrible.  It has a foam strip at the nose for added fog protection.  

Keep in mind. Ear loops and head loops affect comfort! Vogmask and RZ masks have wide, padded bands. Much more comfortable. 


The ones above are 3m brand,  N95 and I got them in Lowes. On me, they fit well. They breathe well, like the ones from Home Depot. They fit differently. There is no foam on the nose area.  If you are smaller or have less hair, these might be the better of the two, but they are close.



This is my favorite even if it's overkill. It is rated 100. Sealed with neoprene.  It has adjustable double straps which I found were the most comfortable.  Virtually no fogging of my glasses. It looks funny. It feels funny. But it enables me to be able to not worry about chemical exposure. I use it on dirty dogs or suspect a flea collar. 


Regular 4 ply non woven dust masks work. But not enough to fully protect when drying dogs or when working on dirty dogs, IN MY OPINION.  My pulmonologist agrees. He said if you are finish clipping or using a vac system they are ok. He suggested more protection is needed for us. Also, he said to start now, even if it has been 50 years since you started grooming to prevent further damage. 

If your respiratory systems are working properly, you will filter out hair in the upper airways. Hair, mucus, cilia...they all act as filtration to keep larger particles out of the lungs and deeper airways. But our systems can only do so much and the  chemical overload we face daily with the topical flea products (and who knows what else) we come into contact with can be too much for us to handle.

I dipped dogs in pesticides that are now banned. I blew off those dogs, no masks, goggles,  gloves. I have groomed 10 dogs a day, 5 days a week OR MORE for 25 years. I wish I knew then what I know now.

Next up, storage and cleaning masks. 

Protect your lungs, skin, eyes. You only get one body. Mine is trying to quit. But...

I am too mean to die and too stupid to quit!


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