One of the most common advice given by experts during various epidemics is the mandatory wearing of a medical mask. However, not all of our citizens know how to use such bandages correctly and only increase the risk of infection.
What are the diseases for which a medical mask is effective?
The main purpose of this product is to protect the respiratory tract from possible infections. These are airborne diseases affecting the nasopharynx, throat and mouth. These diseases include:
- Viral infections, such as influenza, measles, rubella, mumps, chickenpox;
- Streptococcal infections (e.g. sore throat, tuberculosis, whooping cough).
The stage where a person sneezes and coughs is the most contagious. Causative agents of the disease are spread from the patient to a distance of up to 2 meters. It is especially dangerous to be in the same room as the patient.
In just 1 hour the air in a closed room becomes contagious. Depending on the type of pathogen, it is determined how long it will remain dangerous to others.
For example, the virus that causes acute respiratory viral infections “lives” for up to several hours, and Koch’s wand that causes tuberculosis – up to 7 years. And not only air can become contagious, but even dust that gets into the lungs and on human skin.
Who should wear a mask during the acute respiratory infections and epidemics season?
The view that wearing a medical mask at this time should be a mistake for both sick and healthy people. According to doctors, such a protective measure will not prevent the ingress of infected air. Permeability can be as high as 50%.
This is due to the mask’s loose fit to the skin, which results in air penetrating underneath it. In a closed room, the mask is even less effective. Wear such protective equipment is recommended only for infected people. This will reduce the risk of pathogenic bacteria spreading with their coughing, sneezing and breathing.
Wearing a mask by a healthy person can increase the risk of infection, because underneath it creates a favorable environment (humid, warm air), in which the microbes are only activated.
Mask as a prevention of infections
In some cases, wearing a mask is quite effective for preventive purposes. For example, if a person with weakened immunity comes into contact with people who are not obvious carriers of bacteria and viruses.
A person with an airborne infection may be incubated and have no obvious signs of disease.
Medical masks are recommended in such cases:
- in the postoperative period (as recommended by the doctor);
- For cancer patients undergoing radiation and chemotherapy;
- in the period of recovery from severe lung diseases, respiratory infections.
Wear masks only when driving around the health centre or when in contact with strangers.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, the wearing of medical masks by health care workers has been prescribed. These protective equipment is especially important for therapists and pediatricians who receive flu and respiratory treatment during epidemics.
A study by the University of New South Wales, in which more than 16,000 physicians participated, found that those wearing tissue masks were more likely to be ill. Up to 97% of the viruses and bacteria were passed through tissue protection. Masks made of non-woven materials can allow up to 40% of the pathogenic bacteria to pass through.
Types of medical masks
All products are divided into two main types:
- Standard. The standard mask is a three-layer product – 2 outer layers and 1 filter. A four-layer product containing an additional filter is also available;
- Specialized. Designed for surgeons, it contains an anti-liquid layer and is used exclusively in hospitals during surgeries.
The degree of sterility of medical masks can be very high:
- non-sterile. They are used for everyday wearing, in places of significant crowds of people, in other situations. These products are designed to prevent the spread of airborne diseases;
- sterile. They are used in specialized institutions by patients, doctors and laboratory assistants. Under normal conditions it is not advisable to use such products, because after a certain period of time they lose their sterility.
Rules for the use of medical masks
The wearing of these protective equipment will reduce the risk of infection only if the rules are followed:
- The sick person should change the mask at least once every 2 hours;
- When worn in polluted air, the smog bandage is changed once every 3-6 hours;
- Medical masks are disposable products and are not suitable for reuse;
- This is an individual protection device, so it can only be worn by one person;
- It is not recommended to reuse this type of products;
- In the fresh air, in uninhabited places the bandage should be removed.
An infected person in an enclosed area must wear a mask at all times. Given the fact that airborne diseases do not only spread through the air, but can settle with dust, objects, door handles, and hands, the use of a mask is not sufficient protection.
A set of preventive measures includes:
- Daily wet cleaning;
- Frequent ventilation of the room where the patient is staying;
- Allocation of separate dishes, towels and other personal belongings to the patient;
- Washing hands with soap and water, especially after contact or walking with a sick person.
The main types of medical masks:
- non-woven. This is the easiest option to combat the spread of respiratory viral diseases. Ties or earloops can be used to fix products. Non-woven materials consisting of polymeric fibres are used in their production. These products do not provide a sweaty fit to the skin of the face;
- Children’s room. When choosing protective products for a child, it is important that the parameters of the product do not exceed 140×80 cm. Otherwise, the bandage will not fit tightly to the face, which will adversely affect its effectiveness. Children’s medical masks are made of hypoallergenic materials. The inner layer of the cup is most often made of natural materials that do not contain dyes;
- Medical respirator (rigid). The presence of a rigid frame provides a tight fit of the product to the skin of the face. The respirator can be used, as medical employees, and in building and a life. It can be worn for up to 6 hours;
- The respirator with an exhalation valve. The presence of a special valve protects the product from blowing up and provides a tight fit and a comfortable sock. Medical respirators can be used as a means of protection against infections, as well as in the role of anti-allergenic protection during the flowering of some plants.