Types of Surgical Masks
Surgical mask refers to a device worn by the doctor on the mouth and nose during the operation to filter the air at the entrance and exit nose to prevent harmful gases, odors, and droplets from entering and exiting the wearer's mouth and nose. In particular, it plays an important role in the prevention and control of respiratory infectious diseases.
Surgical masks manufactured using non-woven fabrics made from plastics like polypropylene to filter and protect. They are also available in many different styles and grades depending on the level of protection the user requires.
Surgical masks are designed to keep operating rooms sterile, preventing germs from the mouth and nose of a wearer from contaminating a patient during surgery. Although they have seen a rise in popularity among consumers during outbreaks such as the coronavirus, surgical masks are not designed to filter out viruses, which are smaller than germs.
There are three levels of ASTM certification that surgical masks are classified in, depending on the level of protection they provide to the person wearing them:
Minimum protection face masks are meant for short procedures or exams that won’t involve fluid, spray, or aerosol.
Level 1 face masks often feature ear loops and are the general standard for both surgical and procedural applications, with a fluid resistance of 80 mmHg. They’re meant for low-risk situations where there will be no fluid, spray, or aerosol.
Level 2 masks, with 120 mmHg fluid resistance, provide a barrier against light or moderate aerosol, fluid, and spray.
Level 3 face masks are for heavy possible exposure to aerosol, fluid and spray, with 160 mmHG fluid resistance.
It should be noted that surgical masks are not the same as surgical respirators. Masks are made to act as barriers to splashes or aerosols (such as the moisture from a sneeze), and they fit loosely to the face. Respirators are made to filter out airborne particles such as viruses and bacteria, and create a seal around the mouth and nose. Respirators should be used in cases when patients have viral infections or particles, vapor, or gas are present.
Surgical masks are also not the same as procedural masks. Procedural masks are used in clean environments in hospitals including intensive care and maternity units, but they are not approved for sterile environments such as the operating room.
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