Face masks are a new subject to many people, and even ten months after the pandemic started, people still get confused about them. By now, most of us know the basics, but some people can still get tricked into scams and illegal schemes by not knowing certain characteristics of the most common and popular face masks, including N95 masks, KN95 masks, surgical masks, cloth masks, and other items like gloves or face shields.
Before you buy any surgical mask in bulk and wholesale, first read this article to learn the basics of this type of mask. We’ll talk about what they are, what they do, and who should wear them. But, most importantly, we’ll tell you what the colors on these masks mean.
The basics of surgical masks
These types of masks are, without a doubt, the most recognizable ones in the healthcare field. You’ve probably seen them on TV shows or hospitals on the faces of all types of healthcare providers, including not only doctors, but also nurses, paramedics, or dentists.
Among their many uses, their most significant one is during surgical procedures, although they can be used in other types of medical procedures. Their main function is to act as a physical barrier between the wearer’s mouth and nose and the fluids released during the procedures into the environment.
They also have some filtering properties, although they’re not effective for viruses like flu or the coronavirus. For protection against these diseases, N95 respirators are the best due to their high antiviral filtering abilities. Some of the best models for virus protection include the 3M 8210 and the 3M 1860, while other 3M N95 masks don’t work for this because they have exhalation valves, like the 3M 8511.
These masks don’t only protect the wearer, but also everyone around them. They prevent the respiratory droplets released by them from reaching the environment, which in turn prevents its contamination. As you can imagine, this is incredibly important during surgeries to avoid infections.
Surgical masks are disposable face masks, which means they’re not designed to be reusable. Special care must be taken when handling these masks, making sure not to touch the inside or outside of the mask to avoid contaminating it with your hands or vice versa. They should always be handled by the ear loops or head straps, and washing the hands before and after doing so is also recommended.
Do different colored surgical masks matter?
This question might seem irrelevant, but the COVID-19 pandemic created a wave of scams and other illegal schemes that mainly take part online. It’s very frequent to see people selling regular disposable face masks as if they were surgical masks, and most people don’t understand the difference between the two.
Real surgical masks are usually white and blue or green, and rarely come in a different color than these two. This is because it makes it easier to identify them as a medical supply among all the counterfeit items being sold, especially during the pandemic.
However, this doesn’t mean surgical masks can’t be manufactured using colors other than the three mentioned, it’s just not the common thing to see. But, the most important thing to look for in a surgical mask is that the manufacturer is certified by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), just like any other medical supply.
The other important thing regarding the color of the face mask, is to know which side should face inward and which should face outward. Surgical masks are made of three layers, each with a specific function:
- Outer layer: this one’s fluid-repellent, which means that it prevents fluids from penetrating the mask and being in contact with the face of the wearer. This layer is the colored one, and the colors are more typically blue or green.
- Middle layer: this layer is the filtering layer, meaning that it traps small particles, like bacteria.
- The inner layer: this one captures the moisture produced by the nose and mouth of the wearer, preventing it from being released into the environment. This layer is most commonly white.
As you can imagine, putting the mask the wrong way will make it not work as effectively as it should. For this reason, during the pandemic a lot of people were popularizing the phrase “show your colors”, to educate people on how to properly wear surgical masks.
To properly put on your face mask, place the colored side, whether it’s blue or green, away from your face and the white side facing your face. The blue part, as we explained, is the fluid-repellent layer, which prevents the droplets coming from the environment to reach the mouth or nose of the wearer. The white part is absorbent, and it prevents the droplets the wearer releases from reaching the environment.
Some masks have the same color on both sides, in which case the instructions from the manufacturer would be necessary. And, in all cases, reading the instruction could be helpful in case you forget to “show your colors”.
If you’re not in a healthcare setting, reusable cloth masks are considered the most effective face mask for virus protection. They can be used by kids if they’re above the age of 2, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends their use above the medical-grade masks, which are needed in healthcare centers. Unlike the latter, cloth masks are widely available for sale in multiple models, designs, and sizes, and they’re not effective for their use in healthcare settings.