Let's compare the two essential and different pieces of personal protective equipment in the corona times.
A surgical mask is what you can buy at any drug store. It's just a ubiquitous piece of equipment. It ties around the back of your head, or it might even have elastic straps, but usually, it just eyes around the end of your head.
There are majorly four areas to consider and compare in masks i.e.,
- fit to face,
- fit test required
- One time use,
-Fit to Face- The fit to face surgical mask is very loose, thus making it loose-fitting, you can get it to snag, and you might get a thought that "wearing this is uncomfortable," but while you have put on an N95 mask or respirator, you will know the difference. The N95 mask is exceptionally tight-fitting and in fact, it is the most effective PPE that keeps you safe from the harmful airborne particles and deadly Coronavirus.
-Fit test required- The N95 respirators have a quality that they require an extraordinary test called fit testing. Fit testing is a series of examinations and assessments, and it has to be done by a trained evaluator. So you cannot find the most suitable for yourself on your own. You have to go somewhere and have a series of tests done. The goal of this test is to make sure the respirator forms a tight seal on your face that you cannot smell things, but you can still breathe.
-One time use- Now N95 respirators are not at all designed for children or people with facial hair. The goal behind this is, a proper fit can't be achieved on kids or people with facial hair. And if an N95 respirator doesn't fit, it will not provide you with the safety you require.
Now we come to a surgical mask; the surgical masks do not require any fitting test. They will be available to you, put in a box, and you can put them on. While on the other hand, the N95 respirator has to be a particular piece that is fit tested just for you, so we know that it's effective and safe.
When it comes to one-time use that should be used multiple times or just be thrown away using at once, both surgical masks and N95 respirators should be thrown away. But as we face a global pandemic and there is a shortage of masks, especially N95 respirators, people are turning to reuse them. Though intended for single-use, the N95 respirators in the time of lack, like in a pandemic when we are running short of personal protective equipment, can be reused. If reuse is the only option for safety, then yes, reuse is acceptable. It can only be reused when it maintains its structural and functional integrity, and the filter should not be physically damaged or soiled.
You cannot rely on a surgical mask when it comes to smaller airborne particles, so we have to keep in mind that this is because it is loose-fitting, it is not fit tested, and though both of them are technically one-time use masks, the surgical masks cannot be reused in any case.
The surgical mask is worn correctly, meaning it's not fit-tested, but you do have it on snug; it's covering your nose, mouth, and it's underneath your chin. These can be the things that can cover up for you. It will surely help block large particles droplets splashes or sprays or splatter. It might contain jobs like viruses or bacteria, and they save you from those micro-organisms and thus protect you from harm's way. It prevents viruses or bacteria from entering your mouth or nose because once it enters your body; you are at high risk of getting sick. Surgical masks can do that but remember they only can prevent you from large particles, not the smaller ones.
Diseases that require airborne protection, airborne precautions are mostly not large particles, and that's the problem. Surgical masks may also help reduce the exposure of your Saliva and your respiratory secretions to others, so that's a good thing. Protection from large particles is a fantastic thing until or unless we are exposed to a disease like Covid-19 that requires airborne precautions.
While a surgical mask is not reliable for some smaller airborne particles, an N95 respirator filters out at least 95% of airborne particles.
N95 is personal protective equipment. It would help if you used FDA a cleared N95 respirator. They are labeled as single-use disposable devices, but in times of shortage, we can reuse them. They have got themselves very close facial fit providing efficient filtration of airborne particles.
Surgical masks and respirators are both considered personal protective equipment for healthcare personnel. Both are deemed single items, but in times of critical shortage, there are guidelines for the reuse of N95 respirators.
When it comes to the snug on your face, you might find surgical mask a bit friendlier towards the front as they do not just tightly fit across your face making you feel a little short for air while; on the other hand, N95 masks are a very tight-fitting mask, and you might feel a bit claustrophobic wearing them. Surgical masks are more comfortable as you can quickly put them on and off, while N95 respirators can be quite a handful. Both the masks are available online; you can buy them with just a few clicks and get them delivered at your doorstep in minimum time possible.