Frequently Asked Questions
What are medical face masks used for?
Medical face masks come in a wide range of colours and variations, but all have the same underlying purpose. By acting as a physical barrier between the wearer and those around them, medical face masks can block the spread of harmful pathogenic particles and airborne liquid matter. Those who wear masks are both protecting themselves and those around them from being infected with potentially harmful airborne diseases like the coronavirus. Because of this, they are used in professional situations by surgeons, doctors, nurses, veterinarians, and others when undergoing operations, surgeries, or any other situation where the spread of particles is a threat.
To ensure a tight fit in these scenarios, our medical masks are affixed to the wearer’s head with two straps that tie together. After the procedure is carried out, the masks are intended to be disposed of, not re-worn.
For how long can a surgical face mask be effective?
Surgical face masks are disposable products. They are not designed to be used more than once or for an extended period and will have a much lower efficacy if they are. Most surgical face masks are designed to be used for around 8 hours at maximum – or until they are moist or dirty. After either of these situations, the mask could potentially be allowing harmful pathogens through, negating the whole purpose of wearing it. In times of critical shortage, some masks can be sterilised and worn again. However, we would never recommend doing this if there is a new mask available to you.
Especially if you work in the healthcare industry, we always recommend getting a new mask each day, at minimum.
What is the purpose of having 3-layered surgical face masks?
Surgical face masks are not all made equal. Different mask ratings determine how effective they are at blocking particles and whether they are fluid resistant. One rating system used by manufacturers around the world is the ASTM system, where masks can be either ASTM Level 1, 2, or 3. This system takes into consideration fluid resistance, breathability, filtration power, flammability, and more.
ASTM Level 3 masks are the ones that should be used in medical scenarios and are constructed with 3 layers.
Outer layer: usually is blue in colour but can be many others too. The main purpose of this layer is to repel fluid, which can damage the efficacy of the filtration layer.
Middle layer: Made using melt blowing techniques, this layer is where most of the filtration happens.
Inner layer: This is the layer that touches the wearer’s face and is made to be soft and smooth for comfort. It is also designed to absorb any moisture that you exhale, preventing it from being passed around to bystanders and those around the wearer.
Are surgical face masks better?
When looking for face masks and personal protective equipment (PPE), there are several options available. Surgical masks, procedure masks, and respirators can all be effective at blocking the spread of pathogens but have some nuances that make them better served for different purposes.
The right choice for you will depend on how you intend to use your mask. Respirators offer more protection than both procedure and surgical face masks, as they are carefully moulded to fit the face better. However, these are typically in shorter supply and are reserved for medical staff on the front line. Surgical and procedure masks are far easier to produce, more affordable, and easily worn.
When looking for masks, pay close attention to the ASTM level rating, and then focus on what type of mask you think best suits how you intend to wear it.
What is the purpose of procedure masks?
Surgical and procedure face masks are typically made in the same way and have the same filtration power. They differ in the way they are worn.
Typically, procedure masks are made with an ear loop design, while surgical masks are affixed to the back of the head with straps that you must tie up. Because of this, they can often get a tighter and more comfortable fit than the ear loop design, making them the choice of healthcare professionals on the front line.
For the general public looking for a way to protect themselves from pathogens like the coronavirus, surgical masks can be cumbersome and hard to take on and off throughout the day. Because of this, many opt for pprocedure masks.
What is the difference between surgical and procedure masks?
Disposable surgical and procedure masks use the same 3-layer construction method that includes a hydrophobic layer, filtration layer, and moisture absorption layer. They differ in the way they are worn.
Surgical masks are often made with loose straps that are meant to be tied behind the head. This way, the wearer can get the exact size they need for a more airtight and comfortable fit.
Procedure masks are often made with an ear loop design instead. Unless you find the perfect sized ear loop mask, this often means that they are slightly too tight or too loose. However, they are far more convenient to don and because of this are the choice of those who want a mask for protective measures but are not front-line medical staff who need the utmost protection available.
How long is a procedure mask effective for?
Procedure face masks are disposable products, meaning they should be used no more than once. In short, this means they remain effective for 2-8 hours or until they get moist or dirty. After this, their efficacy severely drops, and they should be replaced.
In situations of severe shortages, some masks can be washed according to specific sterilizing methods. However, this is never recommended if access to a new mask is available. At LHM Medical, our 3-ply ear loop face masks are most effective when replaced daily, at a minimum.
How do you wear an ear loop mask?
Any mask is only effective if it is worn properly. To wear your ear loop procedure mask properly, follow these simple steps:
First, make sure you know which side of the mask is the exterior. Most masks, including those produced by LHM Medical, have a brighter coloured exterior. You can also look at where the straps are fused – typically, they are fused to the exterior side, not the interior, of the mask. Some masks also have branding stamped in the corner – this will be done on the exterior.
Next, place your thumbs and index fingers inside the loops of the mask, then place them over your wears. Make sure to adjust the position of the mask to ensure that it is placed centrally on your face. Lastly, pinch the metal nose-bridge portion of the mask to give the mask a more airtight fit on your face. This will also help avoid glasses steaming up when breathing.
When taking the mask off, be sure to never touch the exterior of the mask where any pathogens could be residing and dispose of it in a designated bin.