Frequently Asked Questions
What is the purpose of medical face masks?
Medical face masks are used in a wide variety of surgical, clinical, and healthcare applications. There are many different variations of medical masks, but they all have the same core purpose of acting as a physical barrier that blocks the spread of small particulate matter and airborne liquids from the wearer to other nearby persons. This means that medical masks can prevent both the wearer and bystanders from being infected with harmful airborne pathogens such as the coronavirus.
Designed for surgical use, our medical face masks are particularly useful in situations where healthcare professionals want to keep themselves safe and protected. To ensure a tight fight, medical masks are often affixed to the wearer with straps that tie behind the head.
As the medical face masks may get contaminated during the process, they are designed to be single-use disposable masks.
How long is a surgical face mask effective?
Surgical face masks are designed to be disposable, single-use masks. Most surgical masks have a lifespan of around 8 hours - or until they get moist or dirty. While some masks can be washed and reused in certain situations of critical shortages, we would never recommend reusing disposable surgical masks. Since their efficacy drops significantly after just hours of usage, potentially harmful pathogens or airborne particles could be spread if the mask is used for more than 8 hours.
In short, extended use will prevent the mask from being fully effective. For those in the healthcare industry or those who are at an increased risk of coming into contact with harmful particles, we would always recommend a new surgical mask each day, at a minimum.
What are the 3 layers of surgical face masks?
Surgical masks come in a variety of grades. One popular system used to determine how effective they are is the ASTM rating system. Masks can qualify for either an ASTM level 1, 2, or 3, according to various factors including their fluid resistance, breathability, filtration power, and flammability.
Masks can meet these criteria through a multi-layered construction. A typical ASTM level 3 mask consists of 3 layers:
Outer layer: usually blue in color, but also commonly white, green, and other colors. The primary purpose of this layer is to repel moisture and liquids from exterior sources. Many harmful particles travel via moisture droplets in the air, and this layer prevents them from getting near your respiratory system.
Middle layer: this is a meltblown filter where most of the harmful particles are filtered out.
Inner layer: as the layer that comes into contact with your face, the inner layer has several purposes. It is designed to be soft and smooth to the touch to ensure the surgical mask is neither uncomfortable nor itchy, but is also there to absorb any moisture in your breath and prevent passing on any harmful pathogens to bystanders.
Are surgical face masks better?
When it comes to personal protective equipment (PPE) face masks, you have several options. Surgical masks, procedure masks, and respirators can all be medical-grade but are designed for different purposes.
The best for you will depend on your needs. Respirators offer the most protection, as they are designed to fit to your face for a more complete seal. Surgical and procedure face masks, on the other hand, are more readily available, easier to produce, and convenient. They are either attached using an ear loop design or with straps that affix to the back of your head.
The most important part about finding the best mask is to ensure that it has a rating system in line with your needs. ASTM level 1 masks offer some protection, but aren’t as fluid resistant as ASTM level 3 masks, for example.
What are procedure masks used for?
Like surgical masks in design, procedure masks differ in how they are affixed to your head. Procedure face masks are typically made with an ear loop design, which is quick and secure.
While both surgical and procedure masks are medical grade, many healthcare professionals on the front line, such as doctors, veterinarians, surgeons, and more, will opt for surgical masks. This is largely because they allow for a more secure and airtight fit with their adjustable straps that tie behind the head. Procedure masks are most commonly used in the healthcare industry by patients and by the general public as a precautionary measure to combat the spread of infectious diseases and viruses such as COVID-19. Their ear loop design offers convenience and ease of use, making it perfect for those who want to be protected from pandemics, for example.
What is the difference between a surgical mask and a procedural mask?
Disposable surgical and procedure face masks utilize the same 3 layered construction of an outer hydrophobic layer, middle filtration layer, and inner moisture absorption layer. Their defining difference is how they are attached to the head, and consequently, where they are most commonly used.
Surgical masks are worn with straps that tie behind the back of the wearer’s head. While this method takes longer to put on the mask, it often allows for a more tight and secure mask as the wearer can easily adjust the mask to fit their head size.
Procedure masks are typically found with an ear loop design instead. For patients and other people looking to protect themselves against harmful airborne particles, procedure masks offer the perfect balance with a more convenient and easy-to-wear design.
How long is a procedure mask effective for?
Procedure masks are made to be used once, meaning they are effective for 2-8 hours. At this point, or if they get moist or dirty, they should be replaced with a new one as their efficacy drops significantly.
Some masks can be washed according to specified methods in situations where there are extreme shortages, however, this is not recommended. At LHM Medical, our 3-ply ear loop face masks are intended to be used once before being disposed of. This way, you can effectively help reduce the spread of harmful airborne pathogens.
How do you wear an ear loop mask?
Wearing ear loop procedure masks properly is essential to maximizing the protection they offer.
First, ensure you know which side of the mask is the interior and exterior. Different masks are constructed differently, however, here are some tips to understand yours: the ear loop is typically fused to the exterior of the mask, which is also usually the side with the coloration and any branding.
Next, place your thumbs and index fingers inside the loops of the mask and then place them over your ears. Adjust the position of the mask to ensure that it is centered on your face, and pinch it around your nose. This helps make the masks more comfortable and more airtight.
When taking the mask off, ensure that you avoid touching the mask's exterior and dispose of or keep it in a dedicated container.