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What Is a Medical Face Mask?

The covid-19 pandemic has thrust the medical masks' protective benefits into the public spotlight. Various healthcare facilities now require medical face masks to protect their staff and patients. Medical face masks have taken a central position regarding infection control in public and healthcare facilities.

Still, people need to understand what is a medical mask and which mask rating can offer the best protection to wearers. So, here we have brought a comprehensive guide to know everything about a medical face mask.

So, here we go:

An insight into What is a medical face mask.

A medical face mask is a procedure or surgical face mask. The medical face mask is a device that helps in covering your mouth, chin, and nose to ensure a barrier that will limit the infective agent’s transition. Medical face masks are essential to protect patients and hospital staff throughout their time at any healthcare facility.

· These face masks prevent big respiratory splashes or droplets from reaching others' mouths and noses. Due to this, these masks effectively reduce or control the spread of large respiratory droplets at the source to the one wearing the mask.

· Medical face masks usually comply with certain requirements defined by EN 14683:2019+AC:2019 (European Standard).

· On the other hand, non-medical face masks are self-made masks that are widely available for commercial use. These masks include face masks made of clothes or any other similar materials. Moreover, these face masks are also reusable; people can wash them for multiple uses.

Unlike medical face masks, non-medical face masks are not meant to use specifically in healthcare settings. However, medical face masks are intended to use by healthcare professionals in healthcare settings.

Benefits of wearing a medical face mask

Medical face masks are generally recommended for outpatients, primary, social care, and community settings. These face masks usually ensure a close fit and are intended for medical use. Using a medical face mask can benefit you in multiple ways.

Do you want to learn the benefits of using a medical face mask? Let's look at the ones enlisted below for a better idea about things in this regard.

So, here we go:

· Medical face masks can provide added peace of mind. These can prevent particles that the wearer expels from reaching others.

· These face masks can also prevent infectious particles from spreading in the air.

· Wearing medical face masks can also prevent cross-contamination risks.

· Medical face masks are highly comfortable and breathable. Therefore, you can easily wear the one for longer hours without any problem.

· These face masks are easier to put on and off.

· Medical face masks are clinically approved for fluid resistance.

· These face masks have a higher bacterial filtration efficiency than non-medical face masks.

What are the different types of face masks?

A variety of face masks are available out there. Surgical or medical masks can provide a higher protection level when used correctly. However, if you are using any face mask that doesn’t cover your mouth completely, it isn't effective.

· Surgical Masks: These face masks contain three layers of paper-like, light material. More often, these are referred to as surgical or medical-grade masks. Medical masks are meant to wear once only.

· Respiratory Masks: Face masks that contain 4 different paper-like, light materials layers are called respiratory masks. N95 and KN95 are the most common examples of this face mask type. These face masks are also meant to wear for once only. However, you can wear it for hours if it is clean.  

What are the different ratings of medical face Masks?

Their intended usage is the key way to differentiate medical and non-medical face masks. The general public is using non-medical face masks. In comparison, medical face masks are intended to use in healthcare-related settings to avoid infection transmission in the best possible way.

When you have a deeper look at medical face masks, you’ll get to know that these face masks contain different materials and designs. Due to this, medical face masks can offer better protection than other commercially available face mask options.

Still, a medical face mask rating is the best way to consider when recognizing medical masks for their intended usage.

Learn more about the medical face mask ratings.

American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) rating can provide data that will make it easier to compare the performance and protection of masks across various critical protection types. ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) is an international standard organization that has developed and published consensus technical standards for various products, materials, services, and systems, including those used in healthcare settings.

The current ASTM standard reviews 5 different aspects of medical face masks. These 5 key aspects include:

· Bacterial Filtration Efficiency (BFE) describes the ability to filter bacteria.

· Particulate Filtration Efficiency (PFE) describes the ability of a face mask to filter sub-micron particles.

· Fluid Resistance to determine the capability of a face mask in preventing fluid penetration to the wearer.

· Pressure Differential (Delta P) to measure the breathability and lightweighteness of a face mask.

· Flame Spread to determine the ability of a medical face mask to withstand flame exposure.

However, ISO 10993-5 and ISO 10993-10 also offers certification for cytotoxic testing and skin sensitivity to ensure enhanced comfort and reduced risk of adverse reaction using a medical face mask or their material.

Most importantly, ASTM ratings for medical masks spam into three different levels. Let’s explore what each rating level says here.

So, here we go:

· ASTM Level 1 Medical Face Masks

ASTM level 1 medical face masks feature lower BFE & PFE protection ratings. Therefore, these are suitable for minimally invasive procedures, general procedures, respiratory etiquettes, and ophthalmology.

· ASTM Level 2 Medical Face Masks

When it's ASTM level 2 medical masks, these come up with high BFE & PFE protection. At the same time, the fluid resistance level for procedures such as endoscopy and the general procedure is moderate. Medical face mask with this rating usually provides higher breathability than the other two mask grading. Medical masks of ASTM Level 2 are typically designed to resist spray or splash at arterial pressure.

· ASTM Level 3 Medical Face masks

Medical face masks of ASTM Level 3 feature the highest BFE & PFE protection with maximum fluid resistance. These masks are designed to resist a spray or splash during different tasks, such as trauma or orthopedic surgery.

Factors that can impact a medical mask’s rating

When it's about to meet the medical face mask ratings, the design and material of a face mask are key considerations here. Design considerations that can impact the ratings of a medical face mask usually include:

· Overall size and fit of medical face mask.

· Face coverage provides

· How is a medical face mask secured?

· The number of piles or wrinkles in the mask design.

Besides that, the material choice for a medical face mask can also impact its protection and comfort levels. Some of the most common materials used for medical face masks include Polypropylene the most common one. Other materials are Polystyrene, Polycarbonate, Polyethylene, Polyester, or even Cloth.

Who should wear a medical face mask?

Anyone can wear a medical face mask, especially if:

· You have to visit crowded places both indoors and outdoors.

· It is necessary to visit someone with an infection

· You are going to a healthcare setting.

Factors to consider while choosing a medical face mask.

Here are the key factors you must consider while choosing a medical face mask.

· Ensure that your chosen medical face mask fits your face snugly.

· It should not leave any gaps.

· The medical face mask must cover your nose and mouth completely.

· Consider buying a medical face mask that contains two or more breathable material layers.

· Avoid buying medical face masks containing materials that can make breathing difficult.

Dos and don’ts of wearing a medical face mask

Do you want to know the best ways to correctly wear a medical face mask? Let's look at the dos and don'ts of wearing a face mask below to learn more about it.

So, here we go:

Dos of wearing a medical face mask

· Before putting your face mask on and off, you must clean your hand properly.

· Cover your nose and mouth completely with a face mask and ensure no gaps are around for contaminations to enter.

· Always remove your face mask from behind; never touch it from the front part.

· Keep your unused face mask in a zip lock bag to keep them sealed and contamination free.

· You should also prefer carrying another zip lock bag to carry your used medical face masks.

Don’ts of wearing a medical face mask

· Don’t touch your medical face mask from the front while wearing it; if you need to, ensure to do it with properly washed hands.

· Don't use a soiled or wet face mask.

· Don’t share medical face masks with anyone.

· Don’t lower your medical face mask while talking, eating, or smoking; instead, remove it properly.

· Don’t put your disposable medical face mask into recycling.

Final Remarks:

Always choose the highest possible quality face masks, especially when you have to use these in medical settings. Lower-grade medical face masks usually lead to compromised efficiency.