Medical masks are used to prevent the spread of respiratory infection. They cover the mouth and nose and help prevent the transmission of respiratory viruses and bacteria when worn properly. People can choose to wear either a surgical mask or a respirator. These masks differ by the kind and size of infectious particles they can filter.
Medical face masks are commonly used for respiratory viruses that spread through droplets, which travel short distances and are transmitted by a cough or sneeze. Usually, they fit loosely and prevent the wearer from spreading big sprays and droplets. An N95 respirator can block 95 percent of airborne particles. It fits tightly around the mouth and nose, preventing inhalation of smaller infectious particles that can spread through the air over long distances.
When to Use a Face Mask
Face masks must be used only by people who have symptoms of respiratory infection like coughing, sneezing, or fever. Also, they should be worn by health care workers, those who are taking care of or are in close contact with people with respiratory infections. Medical masks must be reserved for people who need them as they can be in short supply during periods of widespread respiratory infection. N95 respirators require special fit testing, thus, they are not recommended for use by the general public.
Surgical masks were originally meant to prevent doctors from expelling possible infectious particles onto patients during operations. But, even outside surgery, these face masks are effective at shielding others from germs wearers may expel. Also, they offer protection to the wearer against big droplets that land on the outside of the mask. However, due to their loose fit, they may still enable significant exposure to germs through gaps on the sides. Those who don’t want to wear N95 or surgical masks must follow the same precautions they would with a cloth mask, including not tough the mask while wearing it and washing hands before putting it on.
The Proper Way to Wear a Mask
Before putting on the mask, it’s essential to wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Then, put the face mask over your nose and mouth. Ensure there are no gaps between the mask and your face. Don’t tough your face mask when wearing it. But, if you have to touch it, wash your hands or use hands sanitizer first. After using the mask, remove it without touching the front and discard it into a closed bin. Make sure to wash your hands again after discarding the mask.