We all know by now that there’s a pandemic going on and that it’s caused by a new virus species. The first case was reported in December of 2019, and this new virus belongs to the coronavirus genus, which has been known to infect the human respiratory system, causing flu-like illnesses. Standing out from the rest of them because of its potential to cause serious health issues, the SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2) is responsible for countless deaths around the world and in the United States over the last nine months. Other problems that have come from this devastating pandemic include unemployment, mental health issues, and the decline of economies around the world.
One of the main issues to be discussed this year has been medical supplies and PPE (personal protective equipment), a source of concern for many around the world since before the pandemic was announced officially. It made sense for everyone to think these items would become scarce, as they’ve been crucial to face this threat in the USA. Face masks have been the most important supply, and have been the protagonists of this year, with a lot of questions surrounding them.
A lot of people began to buy these items in bulk and wholesale at the beginning of the year, but now a lot of them, including N95 masks, are difficult to find for sale online. Today, we’ll talk about some of the best surgical mask models available for purchase, along with a general explanation of the role of these masks in the COVID-19 pandemic.
What are surgical masks?
They’re disposable face masks with the main function of acting as a physical barrier between the wearer’s mouth and nose and all the potentially harmful particles present in the environment air that surrounds them. These are face masks that tend to be called also “medical” or “dental” face masks, but they’re labeled as medical, dental, or surgical depending on the procedure they're designed to be used for. Just like N95 respirators, they can be used with face shields for increased protection and to protect the eyes.
You might hear people calling them “regular” face masks, but people need to know that not any type of face mask can be called a surgical mask since these are tightly regulated to be used in the medical field and healthcare settings during procedures in which sterile fields are needed, needing to meet certain qualifications. This is why not any type of face mask can substitute them. They also come in varying levels of thickness, which translates into varying levels of both protection and breathability.
They’re disposable face masks, like N95 masks, meaning that they’re intended to be used once and then discarded, and to not be shared with other people. After they’ve been used or if they get damaged or wet, they need to be properly removed and discarded, and can also be removed if the wearer is experiencing difficulty breathing with them on. Before and after handling the mask, washing your hands is recommended to prevent cross-contamination.
They’re intended to work primarily as a purely physical barrier between the wearer’s face, particularly the mouth and nose through which respiratory pathogens can enter and infect the airways, and the fluids that can carry them. These fluids can come in the form of droplets or sprays, or larger splatter or splashes, and surgical masks are there to prevent these fluids from being in contact with these mucous membranes. Many diseases can be spread this way, including the new coronavirus.
As a filter, they aren’t effective for small particles like dust, smoke, or viruses like the flu or the coronavirus, and can only filter out larger particles, unlike N95 respirators. This means they aren’t as effective for virus protection, and their antiviral properties are considerably smaller than those found in N95 masks. The looser fit of surgical masks also contributes to this, as opposed to the tighter fit of N95 respirators. This is why these masks aren’t recommended by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for protection against the coronavirus in high-risk situations, like healthcare settings. However, they can be used as substitutes when N95 masks aren’t available.
The best surgical mask models
COVID-19 cases are expected to rise again during the fall, with this new surge merging with the flu season, things can get worse than they did during the first wave of cases. To keep yourself protected, whether you work in a healthcare setting or not, here are three surgical mask models you can rely on for protection:
- Medpride Disposable Masks
The first option comes from Medpride, a brand of medical supplies that also offers these surgical-style face masks that are comfortable and breathable for daily use.
- Curad Antiviral Face Masks
These are surgical face masks that are marketed to be efficient for virus protection, including the virus responsible for the seasonal flu, inactivating 99% of these particles.
- Litepak Premium Disposable Face Masks
These are disposable face masks with earloops that are comfortable and breathable. Even though some customers say the earloops might now fit all head sizes, this can be easily fixed to fit smaller heads.
The general public is urged to use any type of face-covering, be it a reusable face mask, KN95 masks, or 3M N95 masks like the 3M 8210 or 3M 8511. Whatever you choose for virus protection, you should know that anyone who uses a face-covering, including kids, is helping their communities fight off the pandemic.