What is a surgical face mask?
These masks are known by a number of names including surgical mask, medical mask and face mask and they are worn by health professionals to shield during nursing and surgical procedures.
The masks work by creating a barrier between the respiratory system (nose and mouth) of the wearer, and the immediate environment. This includes any other person in that environment, that may need protecting. An example would be a surgeon wearing a medical mask while performing surgery, to prevent any droplets from their nose and mouth from reaching the patient.
What does the surgical mask look like?
A surgical mask is a disposable mask that fits loosely and normally ties around the back of the head or has loops designed to go over the ears to keep the mask on the wearers face.
They are typically 3-ply, which means that they are multi-layered and are generally rectangle in shape, rather than specifically shaped to the face. This is because the masks are disposable, and are not designed to create a perfect seal around the nose and mouth.
What’s the difference between the standard and Type IIR surgical masks?
Standard masks are normally 3 ply, which means they are made with 3 layers of fabric to protect the nose and mouth.
Type IIR masks are a European standard and the R means that they are fluid resistant. This kind of mask offers further protection than a standard mask as they block potentially-infected droplets from entering the respiratory system.
What’s the difference between a surgical face mask and a respirator mask?
A surgical mask is disposable and loose-fitting and when fitted properly, they help to block large droplets, sprays or splashes (which may be contaminated) from reaching the wearer’s mouth or nose. They also remind the wearer not the touch their nose or mouth, which is a common way in which viruses and bacteria are spread (from touching contaminated surfaces).
However, surgical masks do not filter the air of small particles (such as the ones transmitted by a cough or a sneeze) and their loose fit also means that their protection against germs is weaker than a more fitted mask.
Respirator masks, on the other hand, are designed to protect the wearer from inhaling even small particles. They are normally more fitted to the face, creating a seal from germs and other pollutants. They are based on a grading system to indicate how much protection they offer.
FFP2 (N95 equivalent) masks offer an assigned protection factor (APF) of 10 and they are available to purchase here.
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