One of the questions I submitted to the 2016 Stanford MedicineX/IDEO Design Challenge was -
Many patients who have to wear devices on their faces for health reasons simply refuse to do so. How might we make it easier, and more socially acceptable, for someone who uses supplemental oxygen or has to wear a face mask to protect themselves from infection, do so while out in public?We did have fun with that project, and raised awareness of issues faced by those of us who use very obvious medical devices in public. I understand that we have triggered research into improved and more efficient supplemental oxygen delivery systems for folks needing it to help them live better with pulmonary fibrosis.
In my quest to find a nice, comfortable, effective mask to wear while out and about I stumbled across Airinum. The Airinum mask caught my eye because it looks good and has disposable filters. When I dug deeper, I found that the mask is certified KN95, the Chinese equivalent to N95 here in the 'States. If you depend on a face mask for your health, then an N95 rating is probably the minimum rating you should consider for routine wear. This is especially true during the cold/flu season or during high allergen days.
The one thing that gave me pause about purchasing the Airinum mask was the price. This mask costs $75 and comes with a couple of the disposable filters. That is a lot of money when you are living on a very limited budget. I sent off an email to Airinum with some questions about fit and function and received an answer from one of the co-founders of the company. After a bit more thought, I decided to go ahead and purchase one of the masks. What I have isn't really working for daily wear.
I decided on the "Dots Graphite" version.
A big plus with the Airinum mask is that you can find the right size for your face. The mask is available in 5 sizes and the sizing charts and instructions are easy to follow. The instructions turned out to be accurate for my own purchase.
I did encounter an issue while trying to order the mask. The company is located in Sweden, and their manufacturing and distribution is out of Hong Kong. Distributing out of Hong Kong makes a lot of sense as that is the best location to reach their major markets. The issue I encountered is that my bank did not allow the overseas transaction on my card. I had to call and make special arrangements to authorize the payment.
Now for the important part, fit and function.
The ear pieces are soft and comfortable. More importantly, they are adjustable.
The small double buckle holds tight and is not noticeable while wearing. I obtained a nice fit without too much effort. The mask comes with a headband that I think would be helpful in keeping a comfortable tight fit if you were going to be wearing the mask for hours at a time. I found the ear straps adequate for my purposes.
The inner filter is comfortable and the nose bridge is easily adjustable for a perfect fit.
There is a little air leakage at the edges of the nose bridge. As the valves and mask were broken in, I was able to minimize that leakage.
I've worn this mask shopping, to the movies, at my granddaughter's birthday party, and every time I've been out and about in public. The mask is very comfortable for long duration usage. The valves keep humidity from building up and make breathing easy. My other masks have a tendency to move when I talk, especially when I have a little bit of afternoon stubble. I have not had that issue with this Airinum mask. It stays put and has not irritated my nose. Another plus is that people seem to be able to understand what I'm saying without any problem.
For fit/function/comfort I give this mask A+/A-/A. I deducted a little for function due to the small amount of air leakage around the ends of the nose bridge.
Now, for the largest reason I really like this mask.. It is very wearable in public. You would not believe some of the things I've overheard people saying when I've worn the procedure masks out in public. Lots of long looks and quite a few ignorant comments. I've been very attentive to peoples reactions to my wearing this mask in all kinds of social situations, and other that quick glances, it hasn't caused much of a reaction at all. It appears that a purpose made mask comes with less social stigma than the paper procedure masks. Even my cloth mask received more undue attention than this one does.
Airinum is a new company and they are working out small bugs in packaging and distribution. My kit did not include instructions. That is not really a big deal as fitting a mask is easy enough without instructions. I can see how changing out the replacement filter could be confusing for someone who doesn't have much in the way of experience in assembling things. They really should have the materials available on their website.
I am very happy with this mask and would recommend it for anyone who wears a mask in social situations.