Surgical Masks

Surgical masks are medical devices that conform to the medical standard EN14683. They are designed to be used in the medical profession and to protect the wearer and patient from each other. They provide greater environmental control by reducing the potential of each party contaminating each other. Surgical masks also act as a barrier and reduce direct transmission of infected agents from both the wearer and transmitter.

Surgical masks protect against infectious agents transmitted by “droplets”. As surgical masks have no valve, when R rated, they can protect the wearer against splashes of biological fluid, further increasing safety. Many surgical masks are worn in conjunction with a face visor for added protection or splash protection when the mask is not R rated, and so protecting the face and eyes.

Surgical masks are tested by exhalation (both in and out) and should not be continuously worn for more than 8 hours.

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Surgical Masks FAQs

No, whilst surgical masks may, in principle, offer adequate protection against large droplets and contact transmission, the level of protection they offer against a residual aerosol risk is poorly understood. They are not designed, or certified, as respiratory protective devices and are not classed as personal protective equipment (PPE).

Surgical masks are tested against their bacterial filtration efficiency. When exhaling, a surgical mask filters a percentage of the bacteria within that breath dependant on its type. They are not tested for inhalation so do not operate as a respiratory device and are not tested or certified as such.

Wearing a face mask while out and about on busy public transport, in shops and other crowded places, could help protect people from respiratory infections like Covid-19.

The study conclusions are that people who wore masks, usually surgical grade, were less likely to get respiratory symptoms from casual exposure in the community.

Something like a sneeze or cough near you would become less likely to cause infection. Its only a small reduction in risk for healthy people, but might be important to vulnerable people, who might benefit more from this protection. Therefore, people need to be vigilant about all their habits, and not rely solely on face masks.

Wearing masks at home has seemed to reduce the odds of well housemates becoming ill. The risk reduction was greatest, at 19%, if everyone in the home, whether ill or well, wore masks. The protective effect is not large within a home setting because people have lots of repeated types of contact, so there are many ways for the germs to transmit.

It can be hard to wear masks correctly for many days at home as they interfere with activities such as sleeping, eating, and brushing teeth. Masks need to be disposed of correctly in order to avoid picking up an infection from the mask itself.

The correct way to use a face mask depends on the design of the mask and the kinds of activities the wearer takes part in. Each mask comes with its own instructions on usage.

A very general rule would be to assume that a mask is no longer protective after wearing it for three hours. Wearers should wash their hands before they put on a mask, and more importantly, after they take it off and dispose of it.

In laboratory experiments or when health professionals wear them, yes.

When households and the community wore inexpensive respirators, the respirators were only about as protective as an ordinary surgical mask. This can be due to the fact that wearing a respirator correctly is harder than wearing a surgical mask correctly.

There is little to no advantage to wearing a respirator if it has not been correctly fitted to the wearers face.