When you think of a surgical face mask, you might immediately think of a sterile, white mask used in hospitals to protect the surgeon’s hands from infection. In general, a surgical mask is designed to be worn by medical professionals during surgery to prevent airborne transmission of bacteria in patients and the healing process. The mask is also used during the recovery period to limit the spread of infection to other areas of the body. Although the idea of a surgical face mask may seem frightening, the truth is that while they are sterile, effective and necessary, they do not have to be white.
In addition to the white surgical masks most hospitals and clinics use, there are many different styles of surgical masks available. The most common ones are the nasal, eye and mouthpieces. Nasal and eye types can be worn at home, while mouthpieces can only be worn under the supervision of a doctor or dentist. They all serve the same purpose, which is to keep contaminants and liquids from entering the patient’s nose and mouth.
As for the liquid droplets, there are two types: disposable and washable. Disposable types are made with small tubes that allow the liquid to drip out through a clear tube connected to the face mask. Washable ones require no special preparation, since they simply need to be washed with soap and water. The tubes are connected to the face mask by small Velcro-like hooks so that the face mask can be placed on top of the tube. Once it is in place, all the surgeon has to do is adjust the Velcro to ensure that the hooks hold the mask securely on the skin. Then, he or she can just wipe the sweat away!
While face masks are designed to keep the wearer safe from infections, some also serve a practical role by reducing the spread of germs on the surgical site. If a person is carrying an open sore, for example, the spread of bacteria from one part of the body to another can be dramatically reduced by using an antiseptic face mask. This is because the area that is covered will be drier than the rest of the skin, which decreases the likelihood of bacteria spreading from one part of the body to another. And if the person wearing the face mask is not allergic to the material used to make the face mask (which would reduce the spread), this can be an excellent convenience for the wearer as well.
Because most cases of surgical complications occur below the surface of the skin, rather than directly in the sinuses, face masks made of silicon-based materials are particularly useful for patients whose immune systems are weakened after a severe illness such as chemotherapy. Since the face is a cavity that is difficult to clean, anything that reduces the chance of airborne particles reaching the lungs is good. Silk, for example, although it is not exactly a “face mask”, would be a good choice of material for people undergoing chemotherapy. It is breathable, which lessens the drying effect of the chemotherapy treatments, and allows the patient to breathe easier when taking oral medications as well.
In the end, however, the choice of material makes very little difference in the effectiveness of face masks. The only real factor is the design of the mask itself, and whether or not it can be worn comfortably, while providing a degree of privacy for those who are wearing them. Silicone cloth face coverings provide the best combination of these factors, being comfortable, breathable, and enabling air to pass through them as unobtrusively as possible. This makes them ideal for use by patients undergoing chemo or radiation treatment.