Face masks have been around for thousands of years. Native American tribes wore face masks to protect their faces from scaring other tribe’s members and from infecting them with disease. They were also used as a way of communicating with each other. Modern face masks can be worn by people who work in settings where facial disfigurement is unavoidable, such as medical or dental offices, hospitals and even prisons. Face masks can also serve as a fashion statement, as many people choose to wear face masks as part of a unique, stylized look.
A face mask is typically a cloth mask worn on the face, usually over the nose and mouth, designed to cover or protect the entire face. Though face masks were originally made for the purpose of protecting the wearer, modern face masks can also be worn to enhance a person’s appearance. If physical distancing is impossible and if more efficient masks aren’t available, cloth masks can be used to create a wide open face look.
Face masks can also be worn by healthcare workers and staff members to improve respiratory conditions. Often respiratory problems can cause a patient’s breath to smell bad. A patient’s breath might also have an unpleasant odor coming from the mouth, which can be very difficult to remove. In these situations, disposable exhalation valves can be worn on the face, which allow the patient’s breath to be removed easily from the mouth.
For industrial and office environments, disposable face masks may be worn during strenuous activity. In such situations, the worker may be required to wear protective gear, which includes gloves, safety glasses and a face mask. Some industrial and office environments have rules governing the types of equipment that employees are allowed to wear in the workplace. The most common equipment used in this type of setting are airflow regulators, which can be worn on one hand, or by both hands at once for easier application.
There are some medical situations where face masks cannot be worn. When facial wounds have to be covered up, or a surgical area has to be protected, surgical or heavy cloth masks cannot be worn. For these situations, a breathing mask, or an oxygen mask, may be needed. If a breathing mask cannot be worn, a patient will have to use a respiration mask instead. Respiratory masks, often called a “med collar”, can be worn around the neck or head to prevent the wind from entering the throat, which can cause damage to the throat muscles.
The materials used for face masks vary widely. Most are either made out of fiberglass, plastic or metal, and both fabrics provide the same level of comfort to the wearer. However, when damage has occurred, either due to abrasion or exposure to elements, the fabric used to make the mask can be cleaned and disinfected to restore its functionality. This process usually takes just minutes, though it is good practice to thoroughly rinse the face and wipe all dirty or contaminated droplets from the face mask before replacing it for the next patient.