You all must be hearing about the significant need to wear a mask during the pandemic of coronavirus. The main reason to wear a mask is to prevent the infection from spreading. They act as a barrier to prevent fluids or large droplets to transform, But have you wondered to what extend these masks protect you? Do you know the right way of wearing these masks to ensure complete security and usage of the mask? Is there a particular way to remove and discard these masks?
Well, Let’s look through the article and find out.
What is a surgical mask?
A surgical mask is a mask that has been used very commonly. These masks have loose-fitting and come In rectangular shape most commonly. They are disposable in nature. To support the masks, elastic bands or ties have been attached to them so that you can easily tuck the loop behind your ears or tie knots at the back of your head. There is also a metal strip attached in the middle of the top of the mask. The mental strip is bendable so that it can be fixed comfortably around your nose and provide a barrier from that direction.
The mask restricts the contact of hands with the face. This is a good factor as mouth, eyes, or nose are the fastest way through which an infection or disease can travel.
A three-ply surgical mask, if worn as per the instructions, can barricade the exchange of large particle microorganisms in the form of droplets, splashes, splatters, or sprays.
The surgical mask is formed of three-ply, which means three layers. These three layers are:
- The outer layer- the main function is to push away water, other fluids, blood, etc. from entering the mouth.
- The middle layer- it works to filter out certain types of pathogens.
- The inner layer- when you breathe inside the mask, the inner layer works as an absorption layer to absorb sweat and moisture from the released air.
One negative point of these masks is that they are not air-tight. The masks also take into consideration not to suffocate you or makes it harder for you to breathe and thus, the edges do not seal the covered area. This can arise chances of small particles to entire in the mouth that can be transferred through sneezing or coughing.
When should a mask be worn?
The World Health Organization (WHO) suggests that surgical should be worn when:
- You have a fever or cough or other respiratory problems
- You are within 6 feet or closer to the person who is ill with respiratory issues.
Surgical masks are made in such a way to protect from large respiratory fluids, but they are not functional to protect you from contracting with COVID-19 which is another name for SARS-CoV-2. Surgical masks are not recommended during corona pandemic because:
- They do not filter smaller droplets or fluids
- They do not fit tightly on your face which leaves spaces for the particles to enter the mouth through these leaks.
In the present situation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CPC) does not support surgical masks to be worn by the general public during the pandemic like COVID-19 for protection. Providers of healthcare and initial responders need these items, and they are currently facing a shortage of these masks.
How to wear a surgical mask?
Follow these steps if you have to wear a surgical mask.
- You should wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer before putting the mask on.
- Always examine the mask before using it for any defects.
- The colored part of the mask should be facing outwards.
- You would notice a metal strip attached to the edge of the mask. Position the mask in such a way that the metal strip is on the bridge of your nose, on top of the mask.
- The metal strip is bendable so you can mold the strip to the shape of your nose by pressing it downwards and squeezing it.
A mask can have a variety of strings. If it has:
- Earloops– Tuck the earloops behind each of your ear.
- Ties– position the mask on your mouth and tie a knot with the two upper strings near the crown of your head. The bottom two strings should be tied near the nape of your neck.
- Dual Elastic Bands– You will notice two elastic bands. Take the upper one and tuck it near the crown of your head. The other string will be tucked over your head and placed near the nape of your neck.
- Stretch the mask over your mouth and your chin.
- Make sure that the mask covers your entire mouth area and fits nicely.
- Don’t keep touching the make once it is in position.
- The mask is soaked o damped by any chance, just change it with a brand new mask.
What to avoid while wearing a mask?
- Touching the mask once it’s on as it might be carrying pathogens on it.
- Letting the mask dangle from one ear.
- Letting the mask hang around your neck.
- Knotting the ties in crisscross form
- Once the mask has been used, dispose it off. Do not reuse it.
If you wish to touch your face while the mask is on, make sure to wash your hands first.
How to remove and discard a surgical mask?
While removing and discarding a mask, you need to pay attention that you don’t transfer germs to your hand or face.
Follow these steps to ensure the utmost safety while removing and discarding a surgical mask.
- Always wash your hands before touching the mask.
- Remove the mask by holding onto the strings/ties/loops only. The mask itself can be contaminated.
Remove the mask:
- In the case of earloops, un-tuck them.
- In the case of strings, untie the bottom one first and then move to the upper one.
- In the case of elastic bands, first, remove the bottom one by lifting it above your head and then remove the upper one the same way.
- Grabbing the mask by the strings, dispose them off by putting them in a dustbin.
- After removing the mask, again wash your hands for precaution.
What is an N95 respirator?
N95 respirators are highly recommended during huge disease spread like COVID-19. These masks fit the size and shape of your face perfectly. For the reason that they fit so nicely, they eliminate the chances of smaller particles to enter from the sides of the mask.
N95 is made to effectively filter out smaller particles too.
N95 is highly effective because of the main factor that it fits your face nicely. These masks are tested manually first by the medical practitioners to guarantee the appropriate fit. N95 respirators filters pathogens present in the air more effectively than the surgical masks. Respirators have gone through various tests and certified to gain the N95 designation. These tested masks can prevent up to 95% of tiny particles. But even N95 respirators have limitations.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) suggests in opposition to wearing N95 masks. There is a risk of smaller airborne particles entering into the mouth if the asks are not of a snug fit. FDA does not suggest N95 masks for the general public. They believe that the best road to prevent the infection from spreading, we should not be exposed to it. Social distancing and regular hand washing needs to be followed.
In 2016, a systematic review took place which suggested that there is no visible difference between N95 respirators and surgical masks as stated by medical workers which are used to stop the acute infections to spread in clinical businesses.
How to limit infection?
- Avoid meeting with other people if you are suffering from a respiratory illness or viruses.
- Wash your hands very frequently with soap and water for a period of 20 seconds at least.
- To replace soap, you can use a hand sanitizer for cleaning hands as they contain 60% alcohol.
- Don’t touch your hands, face, and mouth.
- Public places are restricted to approach until recovery.
- Be safe and stay home.
Surgical masks help in preventing larger particles whereas N95 respirators help in taking care of smaller airborne particles as well. A proper way of putting, removing and discarding of the mask is important as they take precautions in preventing the transmission of particles from one to another.
In the end, it is suggested to wear a mask for precautionary reasons but they do not guarantee protection from getting exposed to various pathogens.