Do N95 Masks Protect Everyone from the Smoke?

SOUTH SACRAMENTO -- The demand for facial masks, especially the N95 respirator, has been higher than ever before because of the bad air quality due to the Camp Fire.

At Emigh Ace Hardware on El Camino Avenue in Sacramento, they have gone through more than 18,000 masks since the weekend.

"Six thousand we got yesterday and we got 12,000 on Sunday. We tripled our order," said employee Lynette Porter.

Six thousand more arrived at around 3 p.m. Thursday.

"The air has gotten worse," said customer Ester Stoesell. "I have got kids at home, one has asthma and he's really feeling it. I kept him home from school today."

"It's just making sure that we're staying healthy with the smoke. There's a lot of really bad air quality and it seems like it's getting worse," said customer Jon Changus. "So with it being as hard, we're already having some cough and lung issues, wanting to get these sooner rather than later."

But for as many people who are buying masks, the county public health officer warns that the N95 is not recommended for all.

"You would think people who have asthma, emphysema, chronic heart disease would actually benefit most from these masks," said Sacramento County's Director of Health Services Dr. Peter Beilenson. "That is actually not true. They are most at risk from these masks because it actually makes it harder to breathe."

Dr. Beilenson also says the masks are not one size fits all.

"It also doesn't work for kids because these masks don't fit right for kids," he said. "It doesn't work for people who have beards. So it's not for everybody by any stretch of the imagination."

Officials say the two straps on the mask must crisscross over your head.

"The lower one goes on top so it holds it in tightly. It goes above your ear," Beilenson explained. "Then you've got to pinch the nasal thing. It's got to be quite snug or else it won't work at all."