In comparison to masks like the N95 respirator, surgical masks are less expensive or one could say more ‘economical’. For this very reason, these masks are the preference of the general public as well. Surgical masks are manufactured from polypropylene material and are made from 3 layers usually. The three layers are the mask’s filter which serves as a protector against large droplets and fluids. To say it more precisely, a surgical mask can filter out bacterial fluids that are bigger than 0.3 microns in size.
Usage as a medical mask
After the medical revolution began and patients and doctors became more aware of medicinal procedures, the risks involved in them, and the precautions necessary for different medical practices, the importance of personal protective equipment was realized. Subsequently, the importance of masks was realized and physicians adopted the habit of wearing face shields while treating patients suffering from plague or other infectious and contagious diseases. But since face shields were very heavy and difficult to breathe in, they did not last for too long.
After that cloth masks were invented which are of seminal value since they served as a cornerstone for the now prevalently used N95 and surgical masks. The advent of surgical masks demoted cloth masks and face shields in healthcare settings to the point of becoming obsolete. And as of today, surgical masks are a crucial piece of personal protective equipment. They are used during surgeries and other important procedures related to healthcare and protect both the patient and the physician from getting infected.
Price hike and the coronavirus pandemic
The price of surgical masks and masks like the N95, KN95, and cloth masks alike increased eminently due to the progression of the coronavirus pandemic, The reason behind the immense increase in price was the rapid emergence of COVID-19 cases in the country and the lack of PPE and face masks that were required to support the healthcare workers and the civilians as well. The imbalance in the demand and supply of this product resulted in this mask being sold at double and triple the original price.
But despite the price hack, surgical masks were still being sold and purchased by people and healthcare providers. The only reason being that this mask could be a reason someone is still well and alive since the virus could only be avoided by two methods: social distancing and wearing face masks. It is self-explanatory that the manufacturers and companies were utilizing this situation to their advantage by charging more money from people who only wanted to protect themselves and their families.
Because of the price hike, many people resorted to using surgical masks for extended hours and even washing these masks in order to make them reusable. This is strictly not recommended and also dangerous since surgical masks are disposable and not suitable to be worn for prolonged hours. This is because surgical masks become wear off if they are washed or used for too long. Their filtration efficacy is diminished and this is also further indicated when the mask becomes soiled, emits a bad odor, or results in difficulty of breathing.
Surgical mask and its affordability
Even though surgical masks cost less than N95s, they too like the N95s reached the status of heavily priced instead of being affordable as they previously were. This happened because of the pandemic and the massive surge in cases and deaths caused by COVID-19. But before the pandemic, surgical masks were very affordable and easy to buy. The reason surgical masks are less expensive than N95s is that these masks offer less protection—therefore, their manufacturing price is also relatively less since they are easier to make and also require less time.
Now that the surge has somewhat declined and the availability of these masks has also increased, surgical masks have again become affordable (for most people). The fact that these masks are of disposable nature and need to be replaced after each use means that on average if a person wants to have the best chance of avoiding COVID-19, they need to update their surgical mask daily. While people who are well-to-do may not really be bothered with having to replace their old mask with a newer mask every-day, it will certainly be a problem for people living in the destitute.
The fact that the pandemic has also affected many people’s financial position adversely, some people will hesitate from this additional expense of wearing a newer surgical mask every-day. So to conclude how affordable or expensive surgical masks are exactly—the most plausible answer for this is that these masks are affordable for the masses but having to replace them every-day might make them less affordable for some people.
The widely used surgical masks at one point had gained the stature of a diamond. To further elaborate, as a result of the pandemic, surgical masks had become unreasonably expensive and hard to find. Surgical masks are now again available because of the subsiding cases and their prices have again reached the level where they could be termed ‘normal’. Surgical mask’s affordable price is the nature they are widely popular among the masses. Though these masks offer fewer protection N95s and are not as ideal for healthcare workers as respirators, their economical nature makes them corrigible.