Proper Usage, Disposal and Re-Use of Masks
As we are surrounded by the Coronavirus (COVID-19), the face mask plays a crucial role while saving us from getting infected. However, because of this pandemic, the countries are facing shortage of these masks. Here, I am going to share few tips on the method to reuse these masks and dispose them. Along with using the mask, it is also significant to use them properly. Also, the importance of hand hygiene maintained with alcohol-based sanitizers or with soap cannot be under-estimated. You must also disinfect the surfaces with alcohol. Avoid touching face, nose and mouth frequently. Discard the used tissues in the dustbin immediately. Fit the mask around the nose and completely cover your mouth and nose. The most contaminated portion of the mask is the front part. The three types of masks that are commonly used are cloth masks, three-layered surgical masks and N95 respirator.
Who Should wear a face mask ?
This must be noticed that people, who are having good health, need not to wear the face masks, if they are just staying at home and not looking after any patient.
Types of Masks to help prevent virus spread
• CLOTH MASK
These types of masks are not preferred while taking care of patients who are infected, these masks do not provide sufficient protection, but still are better to use in routine, rather than not covering the nose and mouth at all. Usage of High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter with the face mask can enhance its efficiency, but it results into difficulty in breathing. HEPA filter means those filters that are having minimum of 99.97% efficiency in removing mono-disperse particles of 0.3 micrometers in diameter. If the general mask is unavailable, scarf can be used to cover the face. CDC recommends Use of Cloth Face Coverings to Help Slow the Spread of COVID-19.
• SURGICAL MASK
A disposable device made up of polypropylene, can be efficient in blocking particle droplets, sprays, splashes that consists of germs, keeping them away from reaching nose and mouth, these does not block the particles in the air, that may be transmitted by sneezing or coughing. These are used by the persons who are taking care of sick people having the respiratory infections and symptoms like sneezing, fever, cough, frontline and health care workers.
• N95 RESPIRATOR
These masks are not meant for routine use for general public. It is made up of polypropylene. These respirators can filter minimum of 95% of very small particles of about 0.3 microns. These masks are capable to filter all kinds of bacteria, viruses and particles. N95 Respirator face mask mostly used by :
• Healthcare and frontline workers who are attending the patients the respiratory infections like cold, cough and the patients under observation.
• To get the clinical specimens, medical equipment and supplies or person who comes to the contact with contaminated surfaces in the environment.
• Person who needs to enter the room of suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patient.
Above are the common three types of masks… here is an overview on when and how o use face mask.
Disposal of Used Mask
The masks must be dealt as the medical waste. Numerous germs can survive on the used mask for different duration. According to the professionals, when the viruses are exposed, these can survive between few hours to few days. The masks must not be thrown in the lifts, workplaces, homes, parks, open dustbins, since these can be hazardous to the people who come in contact with such masks. Having respiratory secretions on the infected masks, these can be transmitted and dispersed through air. One must not forget to wash the hands before and after taking off the masks.
Disposal of cloth and surgical mask
These masks must be wrapped in tissue paper or the polythene bag and must be instantly discarded in the yellow bag. It should be remembered to keep the things handy before disposing it off.
Disposal of N95 Respirator
When the mask has been used for hours, you need to dispose it off. Place the mask in the plastic bag or zip-lock bag. Keep the plastic bag into garbage can or biomedical disposal unit. Do not put on a new mask, until you have washed your hands.
Reuse and Sterilization of the masks
Reuse means to use the same N95 Respirator for multiple encounters; most of the face masks are for one-time use only. These must not be used if they are soiled or their inner lining is moist. They can be sterilized for limited reuse. In order to reuse the mask, they need to be kept dry to last long. Used masks must not be left on the surfaces, because these can lead to the infections. These must be stored properly, to assure that these can be reused.
Reuse of Cloth Mask
The cloth masks can be washed properly, disinfected, dried and reused.
Reuse of Surgical Mask
If the mask is dry and the shape and layers are intact, keep the zip lock pouch with desiccated gel. Then the gel absorbs the moisture and keeps the mask dry. If the mask is intact and not turn, these can be reused for three days. It should never be shared or reused, if worn by infected person.
Can N95 mask be washed and reused?
Yes, N95 face mask can be washed and also we can reused it but few things need tobe keep in mind. Please keep the N95 Respirator in the closed plastic container, dispose it off and regularly clean the storage containers. When you are reusing the N95 respirator, leave the used mask in dry atmosphere for 2-3 days and let it dry. Polypropylene present in N95 is hydrophobic and it do not contains any moisture. Other way to sterilize the N95 mask is by hanging it in the oven without contacting any metal at approximately 70 degree c for 25-30 minutes.