The primary function of medical masks is to prevent the transmission of contaminants such as bacteria between medical professional and patient. The mask acts as a barrier or filter for the mouth and nose.
The medium in which these contaminations reside include droplets shed from the mouth and aerosols.
The mask is designed to catch droplets emitted from the surgeons’ mouth and nose when operating on a patient. They are not designed to protect the wearer of the mask from inhaling pathogens or contaminations that are airborne.
While not its chief intended purpose, the mask also acts as a physical barrier, protecting the wearer from substances which may be present in a surgical environment. Examples include bodily fluids such as blood and chemical agents used during the surgical procedure.
While the intended consumers for medical masks are medical professionals such as doctors and nurses, masks are commonly used by the general public for limiting the amount of pollution particulates inhaled in the air, mainly in densely populated areas where pollution is concentrated.
Medical masks are designed to be disposed after use – this is to prevent the spread of infection or illnesses that may be transmitted by re-using surgical masks. After use, promptly and safely discarding the surgical mask is the necessary course of action.
Medical masks offered by Biologica are available in a range of thicknesses, denoted as 2 ply, 3 ply and 4 ply. 4 ply is the thickest and hence offers the most protection, attributed to the middle filter layer.
There are numerous layers and features of medical masks, each with different applications and uses.
Polypropylene is the most cost effective material. It is lightweight and water resistant. It does not offer a high level of protection, so they should only be worn in low risk environments.
Multi-Layer has a greater level of protection than polypropylene due to its multiple layered structures. It is also non-allergenic and non-stimulating, which translates to increased comfort. Like polypropylene, multi-layer should be reserved for lower risk environments.
Carbon layered masks are made from activated carbon, and works by removing fumes and chemicals. Because of this ability, carbon masks are suited to higher risk environments where there is a high probability that harmful substances may be inhaled.
A filter paper layer is extremely useful for filtering particles which may be harmful if inhaled, such as microbes. This layer is appropriate for higher risk environments where harmful particulates may be breathed in. There are different grades of filtration: FFP1 = 80% particle filtration, FFF2 = 94% particle filtration and FFP3 = 99% particle filtration.
A valve is a mechanism that is equipped to a medical mask to increase the free flow of air, resulting in easier breathing. The valve also assists in reducing the buildup of heat which can occur when the mask is worn for extended periods of time.
In addition to differing layers, the range of medical masks offered by Biologica is available in 3 types: standard, cone, and folded. Standard offers the least protection but is the least expensive, cone offers more protection but costs slightly more and the folded mask offers the most protection, but at the highest cost.
Each mask is available in 3 different types of closures, the elastic earloop, head elastic and tie-on. Electing which closure to use is down to personal preference.
Mask selection should be made based on the specific aspects of the procedure, as well as personal preference. The comfort of the medical professional is imperative to ensure the procedure is performed safely.