A medical mask, also referred to as an oral or facial mask, is meant to be worn by medical professionals in healthcare settings. It’s designed to prevent inhalation of bacteria and droplets from the air by capturing airborne bacteria that are shed in the mouth and nostrils of the wearer and catching them in a protective covering.
There are many different forms of health masks available and are used by a variety of medical professionals. Other applications include protecting the respiratory system from chemical pollutants and irritants, reducing exposure to harmful agents, preventing damage to the eyes, skin, and nasal cavities and helping to protect the skin from burns and abrasions.
The many diverse materials used to create medical masks vary from latex to silicon. Latex masks have long been a preferred material by many medical professionals because of their ability to resist bacteria and other contaminants while maintaining sufficient ventilation. However, while they are resistant to infections and contaminants, latex masks can deteriorate and may not provide adequate ventilation or are too thin. While they are stronger than many other kinds of health mask materials, they are not ideal for extended periods of use.
Polystyrene, also known as Styrofoam or High-Density Silicon, is a fairly new type of health mask material. This sort of mask is like a plastic container, which is generally made of a high density foam that has an airtight seal when stuffed with medical waste and put inside the hospital.
Styrofoam is typically thick enough to prevent bacteria from getting into the individual ‘s respiratory system and is designed in such a way that air can be pumped through the mask quickly. Because it’s not thick, it’s also able to move around freely, keeping the nose clean and the mouth dry and preventing contamination from the patient’s sneezing, coughing or breathing heavily. They’re more expensive than other medical mask materials but have shown to be an effective choice for hospital employees.
Silicone is a natural product and therefore will not degrade over time like other materials. It’s a water-resistant covering and can be easily molded into any shape or form, making it very versatile. However, it’s not as easily cleaned as other materials and requires frequent replacement or professional cleaning.
Since these masks are intended for use by healthcare employees, they need to be cleaned and disinfected on a regular basis to help keep the patient and staff protected. This should be done by a trained professional using antibacterial solutions, which is usually included in any equipment bought by the hospital or medical facility.
Cleaning is easy since the materials are nonporous and there are no chemicals used to wash them. In cases of excessive wear, like in the case of prolonged hospital work hours, it’s important to clean the mask often to avoid contamination and ensure a new infection-free atmosphere.
To disinfect the mask, sanitizer solutions should be poured into a spray bottle and allowed to soak into the foam. The solution should then be permitted to sit for 30 minutes, so it doesn’t soak into the mask but rather to the skin beneath. After the sanitizer has been implemented, it’s important to rinse off the mask completely with clean water to remove any remaining sanitizer.
Cleaning masks at the hospital can be a pain for the staff members, but if done properly can prevent infections and reduce costs by protecting the employees and patients from contaminants which could infect them. Even a simple solution of one cup of bleach diluted in 2 quarts of water is sufficient to purge and sterilize the mask, preventing it from spreading bacteria and potentially causing a serious infection.
Although sanitizing is quite important besides the obvious reason of preventing contamination, the mask itself may also need sanitizing to remove food, drink or other material that may get into the air during use. For instance, if there are individuals that are in and out of the room during the course of the day, the mask may frequently become contaminated during their use. Cleaning this region of the mask using a bleach solution gives a clean-air area that prevents contamination and allows the air to flow freely. Bleach solutions can also be used to sanitize tools and instruments in the room, as well as clean up droppings from staff and patients.