Surgical masks, along with other types of medical supplies like face shields, KN95 masks, N95 masks, gloves, and gowns, have been prominent topics of discussion throughout the year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s now part of our daily lives to grab a face mask when we leave our homes, just like we grab our keys and phone.
When choosing the type of face mask you’re going to use for protection, it’s easy to get lost with all the information out there. People have begun to buy most of these items in bulk and wholesale when they see them for sale online, but then end up with a completely different product or one that doesn’t work for them.
You might encounter surgical masks posted online in different sizes, but they might not be the surgical masks regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be used in the medical field. Keep reading this article to find out more about them.
What are the sizes of surgical masks?
Surgical masks are used only by healthcare professionals in healthcare settings. It’s important to set them apart from regular disposable face masks. The first usually come in a standard size, which is roughly around 7 x 7 inches when expanded. Unlike N95 masks, which come in different sizes, surgical masks usually come in just one size.
Regular disposable face masks, on the other hand, can come in other sizes. The available sizes are usually small, medium, and large. This is useful for kids above the age of 2, which need smaller sized face masks to fit their faces properly during the pandemic, as they can be asymptomatic carriers and spread the disease.
The importance of face masks during the COVID-19 pandemic
COVID-19 is a respiratory illness caused by a new type of virus that was previously unknown to scientists. Since the first case was reported at the end of last year, the disease has spread all over the world, including the United States, and caused a series of problems related to our physical and mental health, as well as our economy.
The illness can range from asymptomatic or very mild cases resembling the flu, which are most common in kids and younger people, to very severe ones where the person might need help from a ventilator to breathe properly. The people who develop these severe forms are usually older people, immunocompromised patients, or people with comorbidities like cardiovascular disease or diabetes.
The majority of the cases are mild or asymptomatic, however, even though the severe ones are the minority, they become more concerning when large groups of people become infected at once. This leads to the collapse of healthcare centers, which has already happened in most countries around the world, including the USA.
COVID-19 is transmitted from one person to another when the infected individual coughs, sneezes, talks, or breathes, releasing respiratory droplets that contain the virus. When these droplets reach the respiratory tract of the uninfected person, either by the mouth or nose, they become infected.
For this reason, the use of face masks is one of the most powerful resources available to us while a vaccine is still being developed. Most masks are able to catch these droplets and prevent them from being released into the air, and it’s important for everyone to wear them because, as we explained, people could be spreading the virus without knowing if they’re asymptomatic cases.
A brief explanation of surgical masks
Surgical masks are a type of disposable face mask extremely necessary in the medical field. All types of healthcare providers use them during procedures, including doctors, dentists, nurses, and other workers in the field. They help them stay protected during these procedures, as well as the other people around them, including the patient.
During procedures, fluid or solid material can be released at high pressures and come in contact with the professional’s mouth and nose. If the materials are contaminated, this could lead to them developing certain diseases that are spread this way. Surgical masks are fluid-repellent to prevent this from happening.
They also have a filtering layer, but it only works for large particles, like bacteria, but not for smaller ones like viruses. For this reason, these masks are not the recommended ones for virus protection in the healthcare field where the workers are closely exposed to pathogens like the flu or the coronavirus. N95 respirators are the best ones for this, and popular models include the 3M 8210, 3M 8511, and 3M 1860.
Surgical masks are not only used to protect the wearer, but they also protect the people surrounding them. The most inner layer absorbs the moisture the wearer expels through their mouth and nose, which might contain pathogens that can contaminate the sterile field in which the procedures are taking place.
As disposable face masks, handling them should always be done by their ear loops or straps, never touching the inside or outside of the mask to avoid the contamination of the hands with the mask or vice versa.
The recommended face mask for any other situation outside the healthcare setting is the reusable cloth mask. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the general public is urged to wear reusable cloth masks for protection, leaving medical-grade masks like surgical ones for frontline workers who are at higher risk of infection. Cloth masks can be found for sale easily, or even made at home with accessible materials that can be found at home.