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Face Masks – COVID PPE- When and how to use

Face Masks - Covid Masks - PPE for COVID 19

Face Masks – COVID PPE- When and how to use

Medicshield offer information in line with government legislation and advice from the World Health organisation on Face Masks and all PPE Equipment, to help the general public and different industries to meet the necessary criteria to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 infection.

We understand that it can be confusing to keep up with the latest recommendations on personal protective equipment and understanding which face masks are suitable for different environments and scenarios, Medicshield offer guides to help you get the clarity you need.

Types of face masks

To help you understand the available masks and which ones you need for different scenarios, workplaces or just for general use. 

Medical Masks – There are 2 main categories of medical masks, respirator masks and surgical face masks

Some examples of respirator masks are:

Surgical Masks:

The difference between Type 1 and Type II Masks

The difference between the different grades of surgical face masks is the bacterial filtration efficiency, referred to as BFE. This is a crucial factor for mask efficiency in medical environments, close contact working or when dealing with a potential or confirmed case of infection.

The extent to which filters remove airborne particles is referred to as filtration efficiency. Type I and Type IR face masks provide a BFF of 95%, Type II and Type IIR face masks bacterial infection filtration is 98%. 

Type IR and Type IIR masks also offer the extra protective benefit of being fluid resistant, represented by the R in the name. Both the Type IR and Type IIR face masks offer the same splash resistance and breathing resistance. These face masks prevent the wearer from infecting their surrounding area but don’t prevent the wearer from airborne contaminants and viruses such as the COVID-19 virus.

Type II face masks

Type II face masks are protective 3 ply surgical face masks designed to prevent large particles from reaching surfaces or patients but are not effective in an environment where bodily fluids or blood is present.

Type II face masks have a 3 ply protective layer and a pleat design with ties or loops.

Type IIR face masks

The Type IIR masks offer the highest level of protection of all the surgical masks with a 4 ply, so 4 protective layers and a fluid resistance enabling their use in environments with blood and bodily fluids.

Type IIR face masks have 4 protective layers, fluid resistance, 98% BFE, pleat design with ties and ear loops.

How to wear medical masks

  • Masks are effective only when used in combination with frequent hand-cleaning with alcohol-based hand sanitiser or soap and water. Before touching the mask wash your hands.
  • Hold the mask thick bendable strip at the top and the coloured side on the outside.
  • Surgical masks come with either ear loops or ties. The ear loops are placed around each ear and the ties tie at the crown of your head.
  • If the medical mask has bands pull both bands over your head with one securely at the nape of your neck and the other on the crown of your head.
  • Pull the mask over your mouth and chin and ensure that your mouth and nose are covered.

The difference between a surgical mask and a respiratory mask

Surgical masks are disposable and loose-fitting; they are used to block large potentially infected droplets, splashes or sprays from the wearer’s respiratory system, nose or mouth during surgical procedures.

The Type IIR mask offers the most protection of the medical masks with 4 layers and with the extra protective benefit of being fluid resistant, represented by the R in the name.

Surgical masks also remind the wearer not to touch their face, which is the main cause of spread of bacteria and viruses such as CoronavirusCOVID-19, by cross contamination.

Unlike respirator masks, Type IIR masks do not filter the air of small particles and as they are loose fitting they are not as protective against germs.

Respirator Masks

The difference between FFP2 and FFP3 face masks

FFP2 face masks are the recommended standard or grade to protect against infection in healthcare and dental environments.

The respirator masks are either valved or unvalved masks designed to protect the respiratory system. The FFP2 masks provide a minimum of 94% filtration & 8% maximum leakage to the inside. 

The masks were previously used by healthcare workers and as NHS PPE to protect against influenza viruses but are currently used for the prevention and control of the global pandemic coronavirus also known as COVID-19 or the Wuhan virus.

The FFP3 masks offer the most effective protection with a filtration rate of 99% and a maximum leakage to the inside of 2%. The FFP3 respirator masks are designed to fit more snugly to the face for added protection and are typically valved to aid breathing as the filtration material is much thicker.

FFP3 respirator masks are only required during Aerosol Generating Procedures (AGP) as these can lead to exposure to aerosol viral particles. There is a particular risk of aerosols in high-risk units such as ICU, so you should always wear a mask in these units.

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