One of the most prominent topics of discussion last year was medical supplies, including surgical masks, face shields, N95 masks, gloves, gowns, and face shields. This is due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has made grabbing a face mask on the way out of our homes our new normality, the same way we grab our phones or keys.
Choosing the right type of face mask for you can be difficult with all the information available online, even when we’ve been living in this situation for over 10 months. A lot of people began to buy all types of face masks and other supplies in bulk and wholesale as they saw them for sale. However, it’s important to be very cautious with the products you’re purchasing for your protection.
Some face masks are posted online in different sizes, but it’s important to know the difference between a regular disposable face mask and a surgical mask, which are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a medical device. So, in this article we’ll help you know the difference, and know which one of them comes in different sizes.
Do surgical masks come in different sizes?
As we’ll explain in a minute, surgical masks are meant to be used in healthcare settings during certain procedures. They have to be set apart from regular disposable masks, and one of the key differences to do this is to know which one of them is usually sold in different sizes.
Surgical masks are usually sold in a universal standard adult size. The measures of these masks are usually around 7 x 7 inches when they’re expanded. This is because surgical masks are usually sold in boxes or bags with multiple ones so that all healthcare providers can grab one very easily, no matter their size. Also, surgical masks are meant to be loose-fitting, unlike N95 masks, which need to fit very tightly to the face and therefore come in different sizes.
Now, regular disposable face masks, which are used by the general public and are sometimes marketed as surgical masks, can be offered in different sizes. These are usually small, medium, and large sizes. This is because they’re meant to be used by both kids (above the age of 2, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and adults. The different sizes make them more comfortable and good-looking, which is an important factor to encourage people to wear masks.
Why is wearing a face mask so important during the pandemic?
COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that has been affecting the United States and the rest of the world for more than 10 months now. Many healthcare centers in the USA and the world have been collapsing due to the high number of patients they’re receiving.
This illness is caused by a virus, which is transmitted from an infected individual to another through respiratory droplets that contain viral particles. When the uninfected individual inhales these particles they get infected.
To prevent transmission, face masks work by preventing infected people from releasing the droplets into the environment, as well as preventing the uninfected people from inhaling them. And, since a lot of people have asymptomatic infections and spread the disease without knowing it, the use of a face mask is only effective when it’s done universally.
An explanation on surgical masks
Surgical masks are an extremely necessary type of face mask in medical settings. During procedures in which fluids can be released into the environment, these protect all healthcare providers present. This is why they’re often used by doctors, dentists, nurses, paramedics, and other types of healthcare personnel. The masks also protect people around the wearer, mainly the patient.
In surgical, dental, or medical procedures, fluids can be released, like blood at a high pressure if an artery is punctured. To prevent the contamination of the healthcare provider, and mainly to avoid the fluids from touching the mouth or nose of the wearer, surgical masks have a high fluid resistance that prevents them from penetrating the mask.
Surgical masks also contain a filtering layer that can filter out large particles from the air. Such particles include bacteria, but not viruses, which have a much smaller size. For antiviral purposes, the best face mask is the N95 respirators. They are the recommended type of face mask for virus protection in healthcare workers, and the most popular models include the 3M N95 masks like the 3M 8210, 3M 8511, and 3M 1860. They can also filter out other small particles, like smoke or dust.
As we mentioned, surgical masks not only protect the wearer but also the people around them. Their inner layer is meant to absorb the moisture released by the wearer, which can include respiratory droplets containing microorganisms that may cause infections in the patients. For example, when they land on an open wound it can develop an infection, or when treating immunocompromised patients. This way, they’re the most important piece of equipment in healthcare settings when a sterile field must be maintained.
Surgical masks should always be handled by the ear loops or straps to avoid contamination of the hands by the mask or vice versa, always avoiding touching the inside or outside of the mask itself. After being used, or when they become wet or visibly dirty, they must be discarded and replaced with a new one, as they’re not meant to be reusable or shared with other people.
Outside healthcare settings, for any other type of public situation, the CDC recommends the use of reusable cloth masks to make sure the medical-grade masks and supplies, including surgical masks, are being reserved for frontline workers. Cloth masks are widely available in many different designs and sizes, and people can even make them at home themselves using the resources available online and accessible materials you might already have at home.