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 reduce inhalation of bacteria and droplets in the atmosphere by capturing airborne bacteria which are shed in the mouth and nostrils of the wearer and capturing them in a protective covering.
There are lots of unique forms of health masks available and are used by a variety of medical professionals. Other applications include protecting the respiratory system from chemical irritants and contaminants, reducing exposure to dangerous 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 for their ability to resist bacteria and other contaminants while maintaining sufficient ventilation. But while they are resistant to infections and contaminants, latex masks can deteriorate and may not provide sufficient ventilation or are too thin. While they are more durable than many other types of health mask materials, they are not ideal for long periods of use.
Polystyrene, also known as Styrofoam or High-Density Silicon, is a relatively new type of medical mask material. This sort of mask is similar to a plastic container, which is generally produced from a high density foam which has an airtight seal when filled with medical waste and put within the hospital.
Styrofoam is typically thick enough to prevent bacteria from getting into the patient’s respiratory system and is designed in such a way that air can be pumped through the mask quickly. Because it is not thick, it’s also able to move around freely, keeping the nose clean and the mouth dry and avoiding contamination from the patient’s sneezing, coughing or breathing heavily. They’re more expensive than other medical mask substances but have shown to be an effective choice for hospital employees.
Silicone is a natural product and so will not degrade over time like other materials. It has a water-resistant covering and can be easily molded into any shape or form, making it very versatile. However, it is much less readily cleaned as other materials and requires regular replacement or specialist cleaning.
Since these masks are designed for use by healthcare workers, 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 purchased by the hospital or medical facility.
Cleaning is simple since the substances are nonporous and there are no chemicals used to clean them. In cases of excessive wear, such as 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 environment.
To disinfect the mask, sanitizer solutions should be poured into a spray bottle and allowed to soak into the foam. The solution should be allowed to sit for 30 minutes, so it doesn’t soak into the mask but instead into the skin beneath. After the sanitizer has been applied, it’s important to rinse the mask off completely with clean water to remove any residual sanitizer.
Cleaning masks in 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 two quarts of water is sufficient to effectively disinfect and sterilize the mask, preventing it from spreading germs and potentially causing a severe infection.
Although sanitizing is very important other than the obvious reason of preventing contamination, the mask itself might also need sanitizing to eliminate food, drink or other substance that may get into the air during use. For example, if there are individuals that are in and out of the room during the course of the day, the mask may often become contaminated during their usage. Cleaning this area of the mask with a bleach solution gives a clean-air space that prevents contamination and allows the air to flow freely. Bleach solutions may also be used to sanitize tools and instruments in the room, in addition to clean up droppings from staff and patients.