A surgical face mask, sometimes called a sterile medical face mask, is designed to be worn only by medical staff during standard healthcare procedures. Surgical masks designed for use during surgery or handling blood are designed to prevent infection by capturing airborne pathogens and bacteria shed by the patient’s mouth and nose by shedding tiny droplets of mucus, saliva and carbon dioxide. These droplets of infectious material are inhaled by other people working nearby or by the patient if not worn properly or cleaned.
Face coverings such as surgical face masks, nasal masks, eye wear, ear wear, surgical gloves, and dental handpieces have all been designed with a porous barrier and airtight seal to keep out airborne particles and bacteria. Face coverings are available in many different forms to match any facial type or hair colour and to complement the healthcare worker’s overall appearance. They can be made of plastic, vinyl, paper, cloth, fleece or other natural fibers. A face mask can be simple and practical, designed to cover just the nose and mouth or more complicated with multiple openings and a wide variety of fabric and colour.
The purpose of a surgical mask or face coverings is to prevent the transmission of infection through the patient’s respiratory system. Infection can take place when air travels through a small opening or crack, allowing bacterial spores to pass into the respiratory system. These tiny particles may contain disease causing microorganisms or other irritants that can trigger an allergic reaction, cause temporary pain, or temporary blocking of the airway. Once airborne, these particles can remain airborne for long periods of time. As well as infection, they can release allergens into the air that are not visible to the naked eye, causing respiratory irritation, congestion and more.
Face covers or masks can be made from a number of different fabrics including vinyl, nylon, polyester or Lycra. Each of these materials has advantages and disadvantages. For example, Lycra is very lightweight and comfortable, which is great for individuals who require an easy fit and do not mind a little sweating. Nylon and polyester are suitable for use in settings where moisture is a problem, but they are unable to offer the level of comfort that Lycra or other fabric can. In this case, a surgical mask made from multiple layers of medical grade, durable fabric is the most appropriate option.
The most important advantage of using this type of face cover or mask is that it can be quickly and easily washed after use. Unlike disposable masks, these are easy to clean up and can last for up to two weeks before they need to be discarded. Many surgical patients wear masks regularly during their surgical operations, and these can either be washed immediately after use or placed in the washing machine in order to remove any dirt or grime.
It should be noted that using an ordinary face mask or cover does not ensure the protection of an individual. In fact, many incidents of skin irritations and infections have been reported in hospitals and other public places, as patients using these products fail to take adequate care when using them near their mouths. For this reason, it is imperative to choose high quality, durable medical grade products that ensure an enduring tight fit, minimal resistance to abrasion, moisture and air exposure, and an overall tight and comfortable fit.