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How Does Face Masks Work?

A surgical face mask, sometimes called a safety mask, is an essential personal protective gear worn by medical personnel during various medical procedures. Since its invention in 1930, many new and improved masks have been designed to meet the needs of the modern medical professional. These new masks now feature moisture-wicking materials and more efficient air circulation systems that offer improved comfort and protection from facial trauma and cuts. However, not all masks are created equally, nor are they all created to protect and comfort the wearer. Knowing which face mask is right for you can be a key factor in saving your life.

Face Masks that fits properly should feel like a second skin. They should be comfortable, easy to clean and free of cuts and seams that could lead to deep wrinkles and chafing. Face masks should also be made of a comfortable material, such as a cotton blend that allows for airflow but does not restrict facial temperature and circulation. Many of today’s disposable face masks come in multiple layers to ensure adequate protection and comfort, and come in a variety of styles and sizes to accommodate different face shapes and sizes. Some disposable face masks include a removable protective liner that can easily be zapped and washed, or removed and replaced with a new one.

Face Masks that exhaling Valves While most disposable masks are designed with a single ventilation hole located either at the bridge of the nose or at the jaw line, some higher-end models are manufactured with two or three exhalation valves, allowing for greater airflow and better nasal obstruction prevention. These masks generally feature a single oval or triangle shaped outlet that opens and closes via fabric pressure exerted through the mouthpiece and nose. When properly used, the valve allows for air to be pulled through the nose and mouth, causing minimal intrusion into the airway. The valve usually incorporates a finger ring or push button to manually close the valve.

Face Masks with Breathing Systems Most masks available to the general public today have breathing systems incorporated into them. These breathing systems allow for a full, natural-looking airflow across the mask. These systems offer two primary benefits: they reduce the risk of accidental or rapid exposure to respiratory irritants, and they reduce the risk of aspiration, or gasping, as a result of facial grimacing. The breathing systems are typically located in the back of the mask and are easy to remove, wash or replace.

What’s the Magic? Masks are not all the same. Each one functions differently in the workplace or in different situations. Because of this, it is important to understand exactly how face masks work, and why you may need a specific type. To gain an understanding of how face masks work, it is helpful to consider some basic facts about the structure of the face and the way air flows through it.

The human face consists of many different bones, muscles and nerve endings. Each of these structures has tiny hair follicles that collect moisture, allowing for the follicle to remain open while the person breathes. Warm air cools the surface of the skin, and as the body exhales, the air cools the face mask. The small droplets of air collect near the base of the follicle and stay there until the humidity in the air changes. As the humidity increases, the droplets expand and then fall as they are pulled up by the air, with the opening of the fabric near the base of the follicle providing the air to reach all parts of the face.

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