How Long Can I Use My Surgical Mask Before It Stops Working?
The emergence of the novel coronavirus has led to millions of infections and deaths worldwide. Notably, these global deaths have occurred within a short period proving the virus to be highly infectious and deadly.
As a result, governments have developed drastic measures to safeguard their citizens and reduce the health systems’ burden.
One of the basic requirements for every citizen is to remain protective through common practices such as isolation and personal protection. Chiefly, every person has been advised to wear masks whenever they are in public, leading to the emergence of different masks with the increase in demand.
The surgical mask has been used widely due to its properties and features. However, mask shortages experienced in some parts of the world have prompted advisories on using them and recycling them when appropriate.
What Are Surgical Masks?
Surgical masks are lost fitting face masks that have been in use in the healthcare sector, mostly used in theatres. Typically, a surgical mask covers your nose, chin, and mouth and is held by ear loops. Normally, surgical masks are used to protect you from large-particle droplets, splashes, and sprays.
This way, the masks have proven effective in preventing the transmission of the deadly virus. There are different surgical masks, but they generally appear rectangular or flat with ear loops. The top side, which covers your nose, has a tough or metallic strip that can be formed to the shape of your nose.
How Are They Different?
Although the surgical mask has been the recommended mask to protect from covid-19, other types of masks have also been in use and have different features and protection levels.
Some people have resulted in using homemade masks, which are known to offer a minimal degree of protection but may be effective, especially when used among asymptomatic people.
However, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends using homemade masks only when you practice proper physical distancing. The advice is based on the fact that the home-based mask may lack the proper layers required to offer ultimate protection from droplets penetrations since most are made of soft clothes and bandanas.
Other types of masks are the N95 respirators, known to protect against smaller droplets that may contain coronavirus. However, the CDC does not recommend the use of these masks outside a healthcare setting since they require some level of expertise when using them.
The seal itself should be tested to avoid leakage, which would lower the mask’s effectiveness.
Besides, the masks are generally uncomfortable due to their tight fit and could be difficult to wear for an extended time. This makes it hard to recommend the use of this type of mask for workers, the elderly, or children.
Further, unlike the surgical masks, the N95 respirators supply is limited globally, making it important to ensure that essential workers and first responders are prioritized.
However, if you already have the N95 mask, it is okay to use it since you can’t donate a used mask.
Benefits of Surgical Masks
Although there other types of masks that you feel should be considered, the surgical mask has emerged as the best among all due to its benefits which include.
Protection- The main reason you see healthcare providers don their surgical masks is to remain protected.
It shows that surgical masks have been tested and proven to provide the ultimate protection from tiny droplets that might be carrying deadly viruses and bacteria. Notably, the surgical mask has three layers that make it impossible for these droplets to penetrate into or out of your mouth or nose.
Comfort- As you may have already experienced, surgical masks are the most comfortable than others since they are light and loose-fitting. They make it easy for you to breathe and carry on with your daily activities. Lack of proper breathability experienced in other masks could be risky and unhealthy.
Availability- Surgical masks have been in use in the healthcare system even before the emergence of the novel Covid-19. For that reason, they are readily available in the health system that purchases them in large numbers for long-term use. Besides, their simplicity makes it easy to produce them locally and supply them quickly.
Hygiene- The fact that surgical masks are disposable reduces your chances of contracting Covid-19. Unlike other masks, which you have to wash and store for future use, the surgical masks do not need to be washed as you can easily replace them with new ones.
Washing and storing masks expose you to the virus that the mask could have trapped, and failure to disinfect properly would lender the mask useless.
Affordability- Surgical masks are the cheapest masks you can find in town. Their simplicity means that they are not made from expensive material that would require massive investment.
Unlike the N95, the surgical masks do not have adjustments and materials that make the respiratory relatively expensive.
How Long Can I Use A Surgical Mask?
Health guidelines require you to dispose of your mask after every use for better hygiene and minimize risk infection. Ideally, you should not prolong the use of your surgical mask when the inner lining becomes moist. So if you plan to extend the use, you should keep the inner lining dry at all times.
You don’t want to walk with your disfigured mask just because the inner layer is dry. Therefore, you should ensure that your mask is as good as new so as to maintain its effectiveness.
This way, you can prolong your mask’s use for almost three days.
Surgical masks should be disposed of once used for a substantial time. The disposal should also be done ethically to avoid contracting the virus yourself or infecting other people.
The best thing is to disinfect them and dispose of them in an enclosed bin. Then, burn the trash to destroy any possible infection present on the masks.