A surgical face mask, also called a medical face mask, is designed to be worn by medical health practitioners during surgical procedures. Face masks used in surgical procedures have two purposes. The first is to provide a barrier between the patient and the surgical area. The second is to reduce infection of the surgical site during and after the procedure. Face masks are designed to prevent infections from infecting staff and patients by capturing airborne pathogens shed by the wearer’s nose and mouth, and fluid droplets and aerosol droplets released by the patient. Some of the most common infections to which these face masks are beneficial are:
Acute infectious diseases. These include flu and hepatitis B, and HIV. Because these pathogens frequently penetrate the skin, surgical masks should be designed to allow for the escape of airborne microorganisms. There are a variety of face masks available to combat these infections, including:
Salmonella. Common bacteria associated with food poisoning, salmonella can spread rapidly through contact with infected clothing, equipment or bedding. Surgical masks that include an inner face liner and a nonporous, anti-microbial, airtight covering that prevents the entry of airborne bacteria and fungi are most effective against this disease. These masks protect the patient and/or medical staff from inhalation of aerosolized spores.
Hepatitis B. An acute infection caused by hepatitis B virus, which does not respond to conventional treatments, can cause serious damage to internal organs if not detected and treated early. A solid, nonporous, airtight covering for the mouth and nose is recommended for these patients, which includes: ethylene glycol solution, polycarbonate plastic sheeting, or a high-quality, vinyl laminate face mask. Because many patients with hepatitis B exhibit no symptoms, they can remain unaware that they do not have adequate levels of protective protection.
Nasal Drip. A thick, slow drip is often the first symptom of an acute viral or bacterial infection, such as those transmitted through droplets of sweat, or an open sore throat. An airtight mask will prevent the entry of these droplets, which are a significant source of contamination for the nose, throat and mouth. For this reason, social distancing is important when using these types of masks.
One of the greatest challenges faced by healthcare workers dealing with airborne pathogens, as well as patients with underlying conditions that compromise their immune system, is the ability to contain the spreading of respiratory viruses and bacteria through the air. Medical professionals who work in settings with poor air quality rely on face masks to protect their patients from harmful particles and to reduce the risks of getting sick from these particles. By evaluating the health risks associated with various types of masks, employers and healthcare workers can ensure they are selecting the right type of protection for the job.