Updated: Apr 28, 2020
How to choose a surgical mask or respirator?
Several criteria should be taken into account when choosing a mask such as application, type of mask, level of protection required, etc.
Application: depending on the profession, the field of application and the presence or absence of contagious diseases, patients and caregivers use a certain type of mask with a certain level of protection.
The type of mask: the two main types of masks are “surgical” masks and “respirators.” They have different functions, standards and objectives. The key point to keep in mind is that surgical masks only protect against infectious agents that can be transmitted via “droplets”, while protective masks or respirators also protect against the inhalation of infectious agents that can be transmitted by “airborne” routes.
The level of protection required: each of these types of masks is subject to different standards and regulations in different countries. Within these standards, there are different classes of devices to determine the degree of protection. Refer to the regulations in your geographical area.
Disposable or reusable: Surgical masks are only available as disposable. Respirators can be resuable. In the case of respirators, it is possible to replace the filter once it is full.
Effective life: the duration of a mask’s effectiveness varies according to use. It can be between three and eight hours. A cheaper mask can mean a short period of use. This is systematically indicated by the manufacturer.
Comfort: there are different sizes of masks, adaptable to the morphology of the person who will be wearing it. Protective masks or respirators can also be equipped with an exhalation valve to improve user comfort. Some masks also cover the eyes if eye protection is required. These are called full face respirators or masks.
How to use a mask? (WHO Suggestion) Before putting on a mask, clean hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water. Cover mouth and nose with mask and make sure there are no gaps between your face and the mask. Avoid touching the mask while using it; if you do, clean your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water. Replace the mask with a new one as soon as it is damp and do not re-use single-use masks. To remove the mask: remove it from behind (do not touch the front of the mask); discard immediately in a closed bin; clean hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
If you are healthy, you only need to wear a mask if you are taking care of a person with COVID-19. Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing. Masks are effective only when used in combination with frequent hand-cleaning with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water. If you wear a mask, then you must know how to use it and dispose of it properly.
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