SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, spreads through respiratory droplets. These droplets travel in the air when someone with COVID-19 speaks, coughs, or sneezes. The droplets can cause infection when it enters the mouth or nose of a person who is close by.
Wearing face masks is a simple method to help minimize the spread of disease-carrying respiratory droplets. Studies show that the spray of droplets is significantly reduced when a mask is worn over the mouth and nose.
What is a surgical mask?
A surgical mask, also known as a medical mask, is a type of face mask that covers the wearer’s nose and mouth and serves as a barrier to respiratory droplets and fluids. A surgical mask is considered personal protective equipment (PPE). Although a surgical mask effectively blocks splashes and large droplets, they do not offer complete protection from other pathogens, especially smaller particles, because of their loose fit.
Wearing a surgical mask during a pandemic
A surgical mask may help prevent the spread of pathogens, including SARS-CoV-2. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises the public to put on a face mask when out in public settings, especially when it is difficult to practice social distancing. A surgical mask traps respiratory droplets, preventing people with COVID-19 from transmitting the virus and infecting those nearby.
Who should not wear a surgical mask
- Children who are younger than 2 years old should not wear a surgical mask.
- Anybody who has breathing problems should not use a surgical mask or any kind of face mask.
- A person who is unconscious, disabled, or has any condition that makes it impossible to remove a surgical mask without help should not use one.
- Wearing a surgical mask may be difficult for those who have sensory or cognitive problems. It should not be worn if they couldn’t tolerate it. Alternatives need to be considered and social distancing practiced if the person is unable to wear a surgical mask.
Is it safe to use a surgical mask for several hours?
If worn properly, a surgical mask may reduce the risk of spreading harmful pathogens. FDA-cleared surgical masks have been around for decades. Health care workers use surgical masks for extended hours without affecting oxygen levels and causing any harm.
If you have a medical condition, it is best to discuss any concerns you may have with wearing face masks with your doctor.
Reusing surgical masks
A surgical mask is considered a single-use PPE and should be discarded after use. The CDC does not recommend the reuse of a surgical mask. There was an availability issue at the early part of the COVID-19 pandemic, but now manufacturers have addressed the shortage and you can easily buy a surgical mask. Nevertheless, it is still important to conserve surgical masks as long as safety is not compromised.
Buying surgical masks made in the USA
Although a number of vaccines are now available and have given a ray of hope amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, it is still ideal to have your surgical mask ready. Shopping for surgical masks has become easier as manufacturers have increased surgical mask production to address the shortage.
If you only wish to use a surgical mask that is made in the United States, it is best to shop online. Research online is easy and you could quickly check where the surgical mask is made with a couple of clicks.
To check where the surgical mask is manufactured, check the product label or its packaging. A lot of shoppers prefer to buy surgical masks that are made in the United States as they are assured of excellent quality. Also, it is a way to show support to these businesses, especially in a time where the economy is down. More than half of surgical masks are made in China, and this is one reason why the U.S. experienced a shortage during the early phase of the pandemic.
Shopping for surgical masks online
There are a few things to check when looking for a surgical mask. Here are some tips to help you decide:
- Check for bestsellers. If other shoppers trust the brand, then you know it is reliable.
- Read reviews. Reviews from previous customers give you a good idea of what to expect and whether the product meets your needs.
- Check the legitimacy of the shop. A lot of shoppers buy their surgical masks from other websites and not directly from the manufacturer. When shopping for surgical masks, choose a reliable company. Find out how long they have been in business and if they have gained loyal customers over the years.
- Make sure the product is genuine. It is easy to fall for a counterfeit surgical mask especially when it is marketed properly and comes with a cheap price tag. You simply cannot make a mistake when it comes to shopping for surgical masks. A counterfeit surgical mask may carry the brand of a true manufacturer yet the product itself is made of substandard material. If you think that a surgical mask or any kind of face mask is counterfeit or fraudulent, you may report it to the FDA.
It is easy to don and keep a surgical mask in place for several hours, so wear it all the time when outside. Your surgical mask will serve as a barrier that traps droplets and prevents disease transmission in case you are asymptomatic and unaware that you are carrying the virus.