Surgical mask

Surgical mask
Surgical mask

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Surgical Mask

What is a surgical mask ?

A surgical mask is a personal protective medical device that can be used by medical personnel, patients or visitors. It is a health product with a filter that protects against the transmission of infections through the inhalation of liquid aerosols or germs such as bacteria or viruses. According to its standard and protection class, it can prevent some virus infections such as coronavirus, SARS, H1N1.
The surgical mask is used in practically all medical disciplines. It prevents saliva droplets and upper respiratory tract secretions from spreading through the air when the wearer exhales. When the mask is worn by a healthcare professional, it protects the patient, and vice versa when the medical mask is worn by the latter.

How to choose a respiratory protection mask?

When choosing a surgical mask, several criteria must be taken into account: type, level of protection, etc. The choice must be made according to the discipline practiced by the health professional and the profile of his patient population. In the presence of infectious diseases, high levels of protection are preferred. Indeed, when medical personnel are in contact with patients with infectious diseases or dangerous viruses, they must be equipped with a surgical mask of an appropriate type with an adequate level of protection.

Type: There are two main types of medical masks with different standards and protection purposes: the surgical mask and the respiratory protection mask. The so-called surgical mask only protects against infectious agents that can be transmitted by droplets. As for the respiratory protection mask, protects not only from transmissions by droplets, but also by airborne infectious agents.

Level of protection: There are different classes of masks depending on the level of protection offered, and each class must meet a number of standards. Checking the standard is essential when purchasing.

Duration of use: the duration of use depends essentially on the objective aimed at during its design. It generally varies between three and eight hours. This is systematically indicated by the manufacturer on the packaging.

Size: choosing the right size, when the surgical mask is fitted, is essential to ensure comfort of use.

What are the standards for protective masks?

To determine its degree of effectiveness, the surgical mask is tested on expiration. Several standards exist to determine its level of bacterial filtration. According to European standard EN 14683, there are three efficiency classes:

  • Type 1 or EFB1 with bacterial filtration efficiency greater than 95%.
  • Type 2 or EFB2 with bacterial filtration efficiency greater than 98%.
  • Type R: The European standard also adds an IR and IIR type splash test, with IIR being the most resistant.

As for the respiratory protection mask, it is during inspiration that its filtration efficiency is tested. The European standard EN 149 of 2001 proposes three classes:

  • FFP3: its filtration capacity is at least 99% and its inward leakage is a maximum of 2%. It is mainly used in the pharmaceutical industry and by medical personnel.
  • FFP2: its filtration capacity is at least 94% and its tolerated inward leakage rate is 8% maximum. It is mainly used in the pharmaceutical industry and medical personnel.
  • FFP1: mainly used as a dust mask, it filters at least 80% of aerosol particles and its leakage rate to the outside is 22% at most.

Some tips for using medical masks

When using a surgical mask or respiratory protection, certain precautions must be observed:

  • Remove the mask from its packaging and apply it, holding it only by the ties
  • Respect the direction of application of the mask if indicated by the manufacturer. In the absence of specific instructions, the most padded side should be applied to the face
  • Correctly deploy and position the fasteners
  • The mask must cover the nose, mouth and chin
  • Do not touch the mask once applied except to remove it
  • Disposing of it properly after removal
  • Wash hands before and after wearing a surgical mask

About the author
My name is Natalia. After a long experience in import-export of baby items in a large international brand, I became interested in the Medical Device sector. I am currently an expert in purchasing procedures for medical equipment in hospitals, geriatrics and pharmaceuticals. In this Placemed blog, I decided to write about medical news that might interest you.

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