What are the CDC’s guidelines for surgical masks?

With millions of positive cases, covid-19 spread took the world by storm. Mitigations were developed to decelerate the contagion. One of the mitigations is wearing masks. According to a study, masks provide protection to people. It helps lessen the contagion. Thus, decreasing the mobility of contamination. Organizations like the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are responsible for regulating protective masks. They ensure that the masks that people use are appropriate.

One of the recommended masks is the surgical mask. The surgical mask is a staple in hospitals. Often comes in blue and white features, the surgical mask is widely used by medical professionals. The CDC recommends the surgical mask to be worn in public.

How effective is the surgical mask?

The surgical mask is not as effective as the N95 mask. This is because the surgical mask that is compared is only a common surgical mask. In a study, a common surgical mask exhibited a penetration level of around 55-85%, with filtration levels of around 60-70%. These numbers speak so much about the filtration efficiency of the surgical mask. The common surgical mask is now recommended due to the scarcity of the N95 mask.

However, there is a particular type of surgical mask that has a great filtration ability. This type of ASTM surgical mask. The ASTM surgical mask comes in levels 1, 2, and 3. These levels of the surgical masks have a corresponding filtration level. All ASTM levels of the surgical mask are ISO certified. Therefore, a surgical mask that passed the standards of the ASTM is tested to be of international standard. This also means that the surgical mask does not harm anyone who wears it and does not develop any form of skin irritation.

Wearing masks like the surgical mask is necessary even if one is not sick. According to the CDC, there are people who are covid-19 positive that do not show any symptoms. These people are the ones to watch. They may not show symptoms but the potential contamination is high. Masks like surgical masks are there to protect people.

In line with this advisory, the CDC developed a guideline for wearing the surgical mask. These guidelines are proven to decrease contamination mobility.

  • A surgical mask is good for single use only.

Like the N95 mask, a surgical mask is good for one-time utility. Therefore, it is not advisable to reuse the used surgical mask. Microorganisms that are present on the surface of the mask may contaminate the wearer. Proper disposal of the surgical mask must be done. Cutting the used surgical mask is one way of disposal. Another way is through folding the surgical mask and wrapping the mask with its straps.

  • A surgical mask is safe to wear.

It is proven in a study that wearing a surgical mask does not obstruct breathing. In fact, one can wear multiple layers of surgical masks. Oxygen levels in the blood are at a normal rate. Wearing the surgical mask does not contribute to carbon dioxide contamination. Therefore, any claims that prove the surgical mask to be an obstruction of breathing are not true.

  • A surgical mask is not for everyone.

Children ages 2 years old and below are not advisable to wear a surgical mask. The fit of the mask is not appropriate for children of the given age bracket. Also, wearing a mask is not advisable for people who have breathing difficulties. Although patients with asthma can wear the surgical mask, they still have to consult their pulmonologist for further instructions.

  • A surgical mask should be worn correctly.

Masks are effective once worn properly. A surgical mask can keep the wearer protected if it is worn correctly. The fit of the surgical mask must be ensured so that the risk for leakage is decreased. The straps must be attached to the mask itself.

In donning the surgical mask, the inside (white) should not be touched. This is to avoid contamination. Once the inside of the mask is touched with an unsterile hand, dispose of the mask immediately. Only touch the outside of the mask when ensuring the fit.

If sweat, saliva, or blood contaminates the mask, replace the mask immediately. Avoid touching the mask frequently.

  • A surgical mask can be worn with a face shield on top.

The face shield acts as a secondary barrier to strengthen the defense of the wearer from the virus. The face shield is easily decontaminated and can be used for multiple occasions. However, a face shield alone is not advisable. There has to be a mask underneath a face shield.

CDC also has a guideline indicating specific occasions as to when a mask should not be worn.

  • A mask is not advisable to wear if the wearer is drinking or eating. Before eating or drinking, a mask should be worn.
  • If there are activities that involve water, a mask is not necessary. Though a surgical mask is waterproof, it is still not advisable.
  • Intense activities that lead to shortness of breath dismiss the use of masks. Breathing might be difficult while a mask is donned. Or if you are wearing the mask while the intense activity is happening, remove the mask on an area that has a continuous airflow.

These guidelines from the CDC mean a lot to public health safety. If these are followed, people can contribute to the deceleration of covid-19 contamination. Deceleration of contamination means lessening the threat.

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