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    How to Choose the Right Surgical Mask

    By on Last modified: August 9, 2021

    Hand sanitisers, IPA solvents, face shields, and most importantly, protective face masks became a significant part of our lives during the COVID-19 pandemic. But the truth is that face masks have been present in the medical industry since forever. Not only are they used to protect the sterile field from possible contamination which comes from coughing, sneezing or talking, but they’re also protecting the clinicians from many byproducts of surgical procedures as well as from pathogens that can get spread by blood, secretions and other body fluids.

    surgical-mask

    As a part of the medical industry’s staff, you probably know how useful these medical face masks are, but what may not know is how to choose the right one that will provide you with maximum protection. So, if you are about to hit the market to buy surgical mask, we put together a couple of useful tips to help you choose the right option for yourself.

    Filtration

    Whether you decide to buy surgical mask online or at your nearest pharmacy, the first thing to pay attention to is the filtration level it offers. If your mask isn’t able to filter out the bacteria, germs, viruses and other dangerous contaminants, then you risk transporting them to your patients and additionally slow down their recovery process and vice versa, get infected by them.

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    Source: yankodesign.com/

    At this point, know that many experts recommend masks that feature at least a 95% filtration rate. But on the other hand, if you want to completely protect yourself and the people around, then a moderate 98% or an almost complete protective mask that offers a 99% filtration rate are the best option for you. So make sure you check the label before you invest in a mask that won’t even protect you.

    Fluid Resistance

    Research shows that operating staff experience different types of fluids splash in their face for 50% of the time spent in the operation room, and 90% of these people aren’t even aware that they’re being splashed. For this purpose, a good surgical mask should have excellent fluid resistance- the ability to minimize the amount of fluid that could get transferred from the environment through the mask’s layers as a result of splashes and sprays during surgeries.

    Fluid-Resistance-Mask
    Source: mdsassociates.com/

    For instance, an average venous pressure will have a power of 80 mm Hg, arterial pressure- 120 mm Hg and even 160 mm Hg of pressure during trauma or surgeries that include high-pressure irrigation. If your surgical mask isn’t powerful enough to protect you from these high pressures of splashes and sprays, then know that you can potentially get infected by blood-borne diseases.

    For this purpose, make sure you opt for a mask that is ASTM F1862-98 and ASTM F1862-00a tested as the only way to ensure that the mask is resistant to different splashes penetrating inside.

    Breathability

    Your surgical mask’s breathability, or commonly referred to as the Delta P-value is the ability of your mask to provide a constant airflow to make it easier to breathe. The Delta P-value is measured in units of mm H2O/cm2 and the higher this value, the harder it is to breathe.

    For instance, a surgical mask that has a Delta P-value of 5.0 is considered to be “too hot” for general medical and surgical use. This is why many doctors and experts recommend masks with a Delta P value of less than 4.00. But some people with breathing difficulties, such as the ones suffering from asthma can struggle to breathe even through these Delta P 4.00 value masks. If that’s the case with you, then make sure you consider a mask with Delta P value of less than 2.00, since these masks are considered to provide cool air.

    Breathability-mask
    Source: elle.com/

    Flame Resistance

    The operating room is a space that is full of sources of oxygen and other gases used for anaesthesia, as well as with lasers and cautery equipment which can be potential fire hazards during electrosurgical procedures. To ensure fire safety in emergency rooms, it’s always recommended to choose a flame-resistant surgical mask.

    This means that you should always read the label and choose a mask that is tested for flammability. Such tests are performed by setting the mask on fire and measuring how slowly it catches fire and how long the material takes to burn. So, regardless of what type of protection you choose, make sure the mask is marked as Class 1 flame resistant.

    Fit

    Choosing the most breathable, flame and fluid resistant mask that features excellent filtration rates would absolutely be in vain if the mask doesn’t fit you. So, if there’re any gaps under the chin, around the nose and along the sides, know that they’re potential holes for the droplets, particles and other contaminants to penetrate inside the mask.

    girl-wear-mask-that-is-fit
    Source: stylecaster.com/

    For this reason, make sure that the mask is adjusted to fully cover your nose and mouth while staying in place and not fogging up your eyeglasses. The nose wire should fit over the nose bridge and cheeks while maintaining its shape over time. If the mask featured ties, the upper tie should sit at the crown of your head while the lower tie should be tied behind the neck while preventing any gapping. But if the mask features ear loops, then it should sit snuggly also without any gaps at the edges.

    How to Test Your Surgical Mask’s Efficiency

    Almost every surgical mask found on the market has been through many tests to ensure maximum protection of the wearer. But if you’re still sceptical about the protection level your mask offers, you can always perform a couple of tests.

    For instance, if you want to test the efficiency of your mask’s filtration system, put your mask on, hold up a lit candle, match or lighter in front of you and give it a good blow. If the flame goes out easily, it means that your mask is not filtering the air particles as efficiently as it should be.

    If you want to test the mask’s fluid resistance, hold your mask with the outermost facing upwards and spray some aerosol at a distance, or pour some water on it. If the liquid permeates and the innermost layer gets wet, then know that your mask isn’t efficient in protecting you from different splashes and sprays as well as from the droplets and particles from other people coughing, sneezing and talking.

    test-your-mask

    Finally, you can also perform a test to ensure your mask is resistant to fire. For this reason, cut the mask open to deconstruct it and remove the middle layer of the fabric. Set the fabric on fire using a match or a lighter, but make sure you do this safely. If the fabric melts down and slowly disintegrates then know that the mask is fire-resistant and safe. But if it catches fire and burns easily, imagine what can that mean for your face.

    Now that you know how to choose the safest option, it will be much easier to buy face mask online or at the closest pharmacy. Once you have it, you can rest assured that you’re always protected and won’t bring “anything unwanted” at home.