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Surgical Facemasks Vs Respirators: Which Is Better? | Dexcon

Knowing the proper use of a surgical face mask or a respirator mask has become a significant concern during this COVID-19 pandemic. The fear of SARS-CoV-2 virus infection has caused the public to use these masks every day, resulting in a temporary supply shortage. This has prompted the government to impose regulations and educate the people on the proper use of surgical and respiratory masks.

What Are Surgical Face Masks and Respirators?

A surgical mask is a loose-fitting and disposable device worn on the face. It acts as a barrier between your nose and mouth and the harmful contaminants present in the environment. The mask comes in different thicknesses and can help prevent virus-containing splashes, sprays and droplets from reaching your eyes and nose. Thus, this medical-grade face mask can help you avoid infection when worn correctly.

Meanwhile, a respirator mask is a protective device with a closer fit and edges that form a seal around the mouth and nose. It protects you from harmful fumes, gases and vapours. Also, a respirator mask can effectively filter airborne particles. Technically, it is designed for industrial environments, but some versions are used in healthcare settings.

How Are Surgical and Respirator Masks Different?

Although surgical and respirator masks are both used to cover your nose and mouth, these devices still differ, especially in the following aspects.

  • Fit

    Surgical masks come with a loose fit that makes them more comfortable to wear than respirator masks that are very tight and seal the mouth and nose completely. 

  • Purpose

    A respirator mask is designed to filter harmful particles and prevent these from reaching your nose and mouth. On the other hand, the surgical mask blocks the harmful contaminants from the environment and keeps you from inhaling or swallowing them.

  • Material Composition

    Finally, the materials used on a surgical mask are different from that of a respirator mask. A surgical mask is made from materials that block larger particles, while a respirator mask is created using materials that effectively filter smaller particles.

Can I Wear Masks With Exhalation Valves During COVID-19?

The wearing of masks with exhalation valves is highly discouraged during this COVID-19 pandemic. The reason is that they only block harmful particles from the immediate environment, but they do not prevent the release of respiratory droplets when you exhale. The valves serve as outlets for releasing potentially dangerous particles into the immediate environment.

Are There Face Masks That Should Not Be Worn During the COVID-19 Pandemic?

While the World Health Organization has provided a list of masks that must be worn during the COVID-19 pandemic, many health experts have also recommended not to use the following face masks.

Face masks with exhalation valves only provide one-way protection and should not be worn in public. They can protect the wearer from harmful particles from the surrounding by blocking them. However, these masks cannot stop the release of particles when the wearer exhales as these will exit through the valves.

The public is also encouraged not to use masks with very loose fit because these cannot provide any protection. The loose ends will not effectively block harmful particles from the environment. Also, these masks cannot stop the respiratory particles released into the immediate surroundings when the wearer exhales.

Health experts strongly prohibit using recycled or reused disposable masks because they provide little to zero protection at all. Instead, more frequent changing of masks should be done.

How Do I Properly Wear a Fabric Mask During the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Properly wearing a fabric mask is easy when you follow these steps. 

The Bottom Line

Surgical and respirator masks are proven effective in preventing infection by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. However, both of them have their use limitations and appropriate applications.

If you need a reliable supplier of PPE, such as a respirator mask in Australia, check out Dexcon. We are a leading PPE and medical device solutions, consulting and procurement company. Our premium medical devices and PPE products are suitable for the medical, industrial and retail sectors. Contact us for more details.


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