The role of fit testing N95/FFP2/FFP3 masks: a narrative review

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For healthcare workers performing aerosol-generating procedures during the COVID-19 pandemic, well fitted filtering facepiece respirators, for example, N95/FFP2 or N99/FFP3 masks, are recommended as part of personal protective equipment. In this review, we evaluate the role of fit checking and fit testing of respirators, in addition to airborne protection provided by respirators. Filtering facepiece respirators are made of material with sufficient high filter capacity to protect against airborne respiratory viruses. Adequate viral protection can only be provided by respirators that properly fit the wearer's facial characteristics. Initial fit pass rates vary between 40% and 90% and are especially low in female and in Asian healthcare workers. Fit testing is recommended to ensure a proper fit of respirators for the individual healthcare worker so that alternative respirators can be selected if required. Although fit testing is required to comply with respirator standards, it is not performed consistently within all healthcare settings. Fit checking (a self-test) is recommended every time a healthcare worker dons a respirator, but is unreliable in detecting proper fit or leak. Additionally, fit testing has a high educational value and as such is best performed as part of a hospital respiratory protection programme. Whether fit checking alone, as opposed to fit tested and fit checked respirators, provides adequate airborne protection against aerosols containing the SARS-CoV-2 virus and other respiratory viruses remains unknown. While fit testing undoubtedly incurs additional costs, it is still recommended, not only to protect healthcare workers but also as it may reduce overall healthcare cost when considering the potential costs of sickness leave and the associated legal costs of compensation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-100
Number of pages10
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021


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