The Coronavirus pandemic has increased the demand for face masks all over the world. COVID-19 is believed to have spread through infectious droplets or aerosols from people carrying the virus. Wearing a face mask protects both the environment and people from getting infected. N95 respirators and surgical masks both serve the purpose of protection from inhaling the droplets and spreading them around.
Social distancing is being practiced to avoid close proximity interactions while it is recommended to wear face masks in public. This prevents the dispersion of droplets in the air by containing most particles within the mask. Health line workers are at great risk of exposure to respiratory infections while treating Coronavirus patients. N95 respirators are the most efficient in filtering 95 percent of the particles and aerosols and should be reserved to safeguard health workers.
Although N95 masks are designed to be used once, there are supported strategies to decontaminate them for further use. Re-using the face masks will certainly affect their filtration capacity but they will still be effective to some extent. Time of crisis and scarcity makes re-using and re-processing an option for people to consider.
Donning and Doffing
The front of the mask is the most contaminated with infectious droplets. Minimize contact with the front part by using donning and doffing methods. This includes hand hygiene and the handling of personal protection equipment in the right manner. Using clean gloves while donning to protect yourself. Limited N95 masks can be re-used to protect oneself from contact with the virus.
This is a strategy to conserve masks when this pandemic has hit us very hard. Close encounters with patients put health care workers at high risk. There are limitations for N95 mask how long can be used to preserve its efficiency. Extended use is better than re-using the mask as there is low risk of contact. There is no fixed time for safe extended use of N95 masks as it depends on hygiene. The mask should however be discarded if it has been damaged or is difficult to breathe through.
Users should review recommendations of the N95 mask manufacturers before using them. CDC reports show that it is safe to prolong the use of N95 masks for up to 8 hours. Medical Supply All have NIOSH-FDA-CE certified N95, KN95 masks, face shields, and other useful accessories available in stock.
The technique of rotating the set number of N95 masks each day to use a virus free mask again is really useful. Allow the virus to lose its viability while storing the mask in a breathable container. Also, check for user seal before you use the mask again and discard it if the results are not satisfying.
The viral load on the mask should be in inactive in order to use it again. Other factors including electrostatic charge, filtration capacity, and fit of the mask should not be compromised while decontamination. Different methods will suit different versions of the mask. Some of the methods with promising results include hydrogen peroxide vaporization, UV treatment, moist heat, dry heat.
Cleanable Face Shield
Using a cleanable face shield over N95 mask is preferred to reduce contamination on its surface. This minimizes contamination on the mask and allows the user to wear it for longer. N95 mask how long can be used will not be the same in all health care settings. Implementing safe practices when using masks for prolonged periods or re-using is necessary to save yourself from contamination. Care should be taken after every encounter with patient to avoid falling sick.