Research has shown that wearing face masks in public, even when you feel well, can help curb the spread of Covid-19, since asymptomatic individuals may spread the virus unknowingly. There are plenty of high-quality masks available in the market now, a turnaround from the beginning of the pandemic when the highest-quality masks had to be reserved for healthcare professionals. While all masks offer some level of protection, each type of mask is designed for a specific purpose; therefore, understanding what separates a surgical mask from a non-surgical mask is a critical consideration. Read on to learn more.
Differences between surgical masks and non-surgical masks
A non-surgical face mask includes various forms of self-made and commercially available masks, including reusable face covers made of cloth, other textiles and disposable materials. They provide little protection and can be ineffective in filtering bacteria and viruses, especially in settings with risk of exposure.
A surgical mask, on the other hand, is designed to protect other people from the wearer and to block large-particle droplets or splashes through coughing, sneezing, or talking. A 3-ply surgical face mask is made with 3 layers of non-woven fabric - an inner and outer layer of spun-bound polypropylene, and a middle filter layer made of melt-blown polypropylene. It protects the wearer from inhaling infected droplets in air and liquid particles. Studies have found that surgical masks, when properly worn, can block most, if not all, these respiratory droplets from getting out into the air or landing on someone else.
Is the efficacy of the face mask important?
The short answer is yes. Ideally, a surgical mask should have bacterial filtration efficiency (BFE) and particle filtration efficiency (PFE) of 95% or higher.
The higher the BFE, the more effective a mask is in preventing contaminated droplets from reaching the wearer. And the higher the PFE of a mask, the more particles it can filter. For example, a mask with a BFE and PFE of 95% can block 95% of droplets and particles it is exposed to.
One of the best measures to choosing an effective surgical mask is to look at its ASTM rating.
ASTM International is a standards organisation that sets the best practices and international standards for global industries, including testing, requirements and ratings for performance of surgical masks. There are three numerical ratings they assign to surgical masks which can be summarised to the following:
ASTM Level 1 – Low barrier protection
ASTM Level 2 – Moderate barrier protection
ASTM Level 3 – Maximum barrier protection
Compared to non-rated face masks, the ASTM-rated surgical masks are far more effective at reducing the spread of disease by preventing the spray of aerosols from the wearer.
How long is my face mask effective for?
Although a study from the World Health Organisation in 2020 recommended a change of mask every 4 hours, a surgical mask can retain its filtration properties for more than 4 hours. However, damp, torn, dirty or dislodged masks should be disposed of and replaced with a new mask regardless of the duration it has been worn for.
How do I ensure my face mask is worn correctly?
While there may be varying types of face masks available, most surgical masks come with a few features to ensure you’re wearing them the right way. When putting on your surgical mask, make sure the nose piece should be at the top, with the pleats falling downwards and away from the nose.
If you’re on the lookout for the best surgical mask in Singapore that offers high filtration efficiency, breathability and fluid penetration resistance, look no further than AIR+ Surgical Mask. Tested to ASTM Level 2 standard, AIR+ surgical masks provide trusted medical grade protection for your family.
Wearing a mask is one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself and your family in the midst of an ongoing pandemic. AIR+ is an HSA-approved surgical mask supplier in Singapore. Extensively tested at our resident quality control lab and validated through independent lab testing, every AIR⁺ product demonstrates excellence in production quality. Explore our surgical masks online today.