The surgical mask is a device primarily used by healthcare professionals to protect themselves and their patients from infectious diseases in the air, body fluids and small particles in the air. During a particularly active epidemic, health services may recommend that the public wear this type of mask for protection. They are generally designed not to be too tight on the face while effectively covering the mouth and nose.
Understand how it works
1-Understand what it protects you from. Surgical masks are designed to cover the mouth and nose. They’re made of a material that blocks droplets, splashes, and other particles that might contain viruses or bacteria you want to protect yourself from.
2-Know the difference with an N95 mask. An N95 mask is a device used by healthcare professionals to block 95% of smaller particles. Unlike the regular surgical mask, the N95 mask molds better to the face to rest against the skin and filters out smaller airborne particles
- Although it can block 95% of small particles (that is, approximately 0.3 microns in size), there is a risk that 5% of the particles present will penetrate the barrier of the device.
- They are not intended for use by children and men who have mustaches or beards.
- Some of them are equipped with an exhalation valve designed to reduce the build-up of condensation inside and allow the user to breathe more easily. However, they should not be used in environments that must be kept sterile, as the valve on the device could allow unfiltered (and possibly contaminated) air to pass through.
- In general, each type of N95 mask should be sold with specific instructions on how to install and remove it. You should follow its instructions first to ensure you and your patients are optimally protected. Often, healthcare professionals are also trained on how to properly use these devices.
Put on the mask
1-Clean your hands. Before touching a surgical mask, you should wash your hands well with soap and water
- After you get your hands wet and apply the soap, you should rub them together for at least twenty seconds before rinsing them.
- Always use disposable paper towels to dry your hands and throw them out when you are finished.
2-Check the surgical mask. Once you’ve taken a new one out of the box, take a look at it to make sure it doesn’t have any flaws, holes, or tears. If you see any problem, you need to throw it away and choose another new one from the package.
3-Turn it in the right direction. In order for the device to conform to the shape of your face as best as possible, the top part is usually more solid so that you can bend it all around the bridge of your nose. You must then make sure that this part is on the top before putting the mask on your face.
4-Lay the correct side on your face. The inside of the mask is white in color while the outside is usually another color. Before putting it on your face, you need to make sure that the white side is facing your face.
5-Lay it on your face. There are several types of surgical masks and each has a different method of making it fit on the face.
- Ear loops: some masks have two loops on each side that allow them to hold at ear level. They are usually made of an elastic material that allows them to be stretched. If you choose this type of mask, just put the first loop around one of your ears and the second loop around the second.
- Ties: Some masks need to be attached with ties that you pass through the back of your head. Usually they have one pair of ties at the top and another pair at the bottom. Grab this mask by the top ties, pass it around the top of your head and secure them behind in a knot.
- The bands: some masks have elastic bands that you put around your head (unlike those that you put around your ears). Keeping it in front of your face, pull the band to pass it through the top of your head, and adjust it around your head. Then wrap the bottom band around your head and hold it in place at the base of the skull.
6-Adjust the band for the nose. Now that you have installed the mask on your face, you should use your index finger and thumb to pinch the rigid part at the top of the mask and mold it around the bridge of the nose
7-Tie the lower part if necessary. If you have chosen a mask with bands that tie at the top and bottom, you can now tie a knot at the bottom around the base of the skull. Since this step could impact the comfort of the mask, it would be best if you first adjust the nose band before tightening the bands around your head.
- If you’ve tightened them up already, you could tighten them up a bit more if necessary.
8-Adjust the mask. Once you’ve secured it in place, adjust it to make sure it covers your face and mouth well and the bottom edge covers your chin.
Remove the mask
1-Wash your hands. You may need to wash your hands depending on the activity you did before removing the mask. You could also remove your disposable gloves, wash your hands and remove the mask last.
2-Be careful when removing it. As a general rule, you should only remove it by touching the edges, ties or loops. Do not touch the part that covers your mouth and nose, as it may be contaminated.
- For the earrings: Use your hands to hold the earrings and remove them from your ears.
- For the ties: start by undoing the knots you have made and remove the ties from the top. Finally, remove it by holding it by the top clips.
- For the bands: Use your hands to pull the elastic from the bottom to the top over your head, then repeat the same operation for the top elastic. Take out the mask while holding it by the top elastic.
3-Dispose of it safely. It is designed to be used only once. As soon as you have removed it, you must throw it away right away
- If you are in a medical environment, there is probably a bin specially designed to collect hazardous waste like gloves and masks.
- In a non-medical environment where the mask could be contaminated, you should put it in a plastic bag. Close it and then throw it in the trash.
4-Wash your hands again. Once you have disposed of it safely, you should wash your hands a second time to be sure they are clean and that you have not contaminated them by touching the device.
- You should use soap and water to wash your hands whenever necessary. However, if you don’t have either, you can use an antibacterial gel that contains at least 60% alcohol. If you want to make sure you have put on enough, you should rub your hands together for at least ten seconds before they are dry.
- You will also find various websites online that will give you more information about the different masks and their specific uses. These sites often feature photos, comparisons between each model and a list of recognized manufacturers.