CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – With the omicron COVID variant being more transmissible, public health officials and doctors are recommending people upgrade to higher quality masks.

Are N95 masks safe for children?

“Masks save lives, I think is the important thing here. And we want to make sure that everybody has the tools and resources that they need in order to protect themselves and their families,” said Deanne Criswell, a FEMA Administrator.

The federal government will be distributing 400 million N95 masks starting this week at thousands of pharmacies and health centers but right now what’s on the market? With the omicron variant, a hospital grade mask or N95 respirator is best. N95 can filter out 95-percent of airborne particles when used correctly. The N95 is the top choice but KN95 and KF94 masks work too.

“N95 have two straps that go around the head as opposed to a KN95 usually will have ear loops,” said Dr. Stella Hines, Associated Professor of Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

A typical surgical mask provides decent protection, but doesn’t seal tightly around the nose and mouth like the others do.

Hines added, “And you will know if it’s not sealed, if your glasses fog up.”

However, there are many fake N95 masks online. The key, according to experts, is to look for products approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Approved masks will have the NIOSH logo and T-C identification number NIOSH

A few other ways to spot a fake mask is, NIOSH-approved high filtration masks will always have headband straps rather than ear-loops. Real high-quality masks will also never have decorative add-ons like sequins.

Projectn95.org is a non-profit with links to certified masks and you can verify mask certification numbers through the CDC’s website.