The N95 Mask and surgical masks are used to protect the wearer against airborne particles and drops contaminating their face. You can prevent airborne transmission by using a combination of personal protective equipment (PPE) as well as all the controls.

Surgical Face Masks

Health care professionals use disposable single-use surgical or procedure masks to protect themselves against the spread of bodily fluids, particulate material, and other airborne infectious diseases. Health departments might recommend that the public use surgical masks in case of a disease outbreak. The surgical masks stop large drops of bodily fluids, which may contain germs or viruses, from getting out of the nose and mouth. Study looked into how masks might help seasonal flu sufferers limit the spread of the virus by preventing them from exhaling small amounts. Researchers found that masks resulted in a three-fold decrease in the amount of virus transmitted through the air.

Although surgical masks come in many different designs, the majority of them are rectangular and flat. There may be pleats or folds on the mask.  An elastic band or straight tie can keep a surgical mask in its place. You can tie these bands behind your ears or wrap them around your head. Most of the time, they cover your nose and mouth.

Infection Control Strategies

  • In the case of masks, they can only ever be worn with single-use PPE
  • As soon as the patient interaction is complete, the mask can be removed and placed outside the clinical space.
  • Use only the loops and ties for mask disposal.
  • After being exposed to blood or other bodily fluids it is best to discard and immediately replace exam gloves.
  • A surgical mask can be used in public areas. If you are caring for someone with COVID-19, you will need a surgical mask. The mask’s edges don’t seal the mouth or nose.

N95 Mask Respirators

There has been a lot of interest in using respirators and surgical masks as infection control measures since the 2009 H1N1 flu outbreak. While they look similar, respirators have distinct functions. There are differences in the amount of exposure reduction that respirators and surgical masks offer. For healthcare workers coming in direct contact with H1N1 patients, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), recommend that you use a NIOSH-certified N95 respirator or better.

A N95 mask or KN95 mask respirator, which can block 95% of microscopic particles down to 0.3 microns, is an essential piece of PPE for healthcare professionals. It protects them from airborne infectious diseases such as anthrax and tuberculosis. The N95 respirators must create a tight seal around your nose and mouth to prevent airborne viruses from entering. This is why they fit better than surgical masks. Children and people with facial hair cannot use N95 respirators.

N95 respirators include an exhalation device. This valve reduces condensation buildup.  This valve allows air to flow unfiltered and can allow contaminants to escape from the mask. Each type of N95 respirator should include detailed instructions from its manufacturer, explaining how to use it.