Surgical mask vs. respiratory mask
There are two major differences between a surgical mask and a respiratory mask (also known as an FFP mask):
- A surgical mask stops liquid drops and splashes, but is no match for smaller particles, such as viruses, bacteria or dust. The respiratory mask (FFP mask) does stop those particles.
- Moreover, the surgical mask is ill-fitting, causing unfiltered air to be inhaled along the edges.
When should an FFP mask be worn?
The respiratory mask provides protection against airborne microorganisms, such as viruses and bacteria. For example, it protects you from infection by a coughing patient with an infectious disease. It also protects you from inhaling small particles when performing an activity on a patient that produces aerosols, such as bronchoscopy.
The mask can also be used when high-risk medication such as antibiotics and pentamidine are atomised. Normally, the nurse does not stay in the room. If, however, they have to, they must wear a respiratory mask.
In addition, the mask can be used for dangerous substances in powder form. The mask does not offer satisfactory protection against dangerous substances that evaporate in the air. The filter does not stop these substances.
It is important that you protect yourself well against high-risk duties when microorganisms or small particles are released into the air. If it is unclear whether an activity involves risks, consult colleagues. If you are unable to work it out, please contact hospital hygiene or the OHS service.
Difference between FFP1, FFP2 and FFP3
There are various types of respiratory masks. FFP1, FFP2 and FFP3. The main difference is the filter capacity of the material. An FFP3 mask has the best filter capacity. An FFP1 mask is somewhat less effective. In the care sector, use is mainly made of FFP1 and FFP2 masks. Protocols specify which type of mask to use. The type is indicated on the packaging
How to put on a mask?
Make sure the mask has a snug fit to the face. If this is not acquired, you can inhale unfiltered, contaminated air along the edges. The mask works poorly if you have a beard or stubble, because the edges of the mask will not fit snugly to the face. Shaving is therefore important.
A mask does not sit as well with long hair. Wear long hair in a ponytail or pin it up.
Every supplier indicates on the packaging how the mask should be put on. The instruction in this video applies to the 3M mask.
- Make sure your hands are clean.
- Pull the mask open and bend the nose clip slightly
- Keep the mask in one hand and the elastic bands in the other.
- Hold the mask under your chin and place the elastic bands on top of your head.
- Make sure flap under the chin is positioned all the way backwards.
- Place the lower elastic band beneath the ears. The bands do not cross each other.
- Place the top of the mask just below the nose bridge. That is the soft part of the nose. Press the mask with two hands on both sides at the same time, moving from top to bottom. If you do not do this properly, a gap will quickly appear.
- Check that the mask fits snugly.
- You could perform a leakage test:
- Cover the mask with your hands;
- Breathe out vigorously with a mask without exhalation valve;
- Check if air is escaping on the edges of the mask.
- If there is leakage, adjust the mask in such a way that it does not happen again. Check this again with the leakage test.
The mask is for single use only. Dispose of it after use in the waste bin. So do not let the mask dangle under your chin and do not put it in your pocket.
How to take off a mask
First take off your gloves. Disinfect the hands if the mask was used to protect against microorganisms. Then take off the mask as follows:
- Place your chin upwards.
- Bow forward.
Take both elastic bands with two hands and pull them over your head. Do not touch your face or the mask.