Pros and Cons of Surgical and FFP3 Masks - Uses and Benefits

A shortage of PPE supplies during the COVID-19 pandemic has recently raised questions about our preparedness. Surgical and FFP3 Masks were two of such basic protective equipment that ran short on the count. How are Surgical & FFP3 respirators useful, and what are their limitations? Pros and Cons of Surgical and FFP3 Masks evaluate further facts.

Uses and Benefits of Surgical Mask

A surgical mask (face mask) is also used as a procedure mask during medical procedures and surgeries. This protective covering is categorized in Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Principally used by healthcare providers, this facial covering helps you contain the airborne contaminants and liquid particles away in patients or non-infected persons.

Uses of Surgical Masks

  • As a patient, you need to wear a surgical mask to avoid spreading the virus. Do remember that a barrier created between your face and other people keeps them secure from external infection.
  • Surgeons and Nurses wear it while performing procedures or dealing with patients so as to prevent an escape of droplets into a patient's system.
  • Droplets produced by coughing, talking, or sneezing can reach up to a meter or a meter, and a half before depositing on the surface, a surgical mask helps contain such droplets.

Benefits (pros) of Surgical Masks

  • Procedure masks protect others from possible infection by a patient or infected person.
  • There is a very high risk of contamination when a sick person finds themselves at a very short distance from the healthy ones.
  • This protective face covering is one of the highly recommended pieces of equipment for patients who go outside or visit places that are prone to spread contagion.
  • Surgical Masks act as a powerful filter for the outgoing particles.

Limitations or cons of using Surgical Masks

Many people have misconceptions about the uses of surgical masks for incoming dust and contaminant particles. People believe that surgical Masks protect you from breathing in airborne bacteria or viruses.

  • Fact: Medical masks are designed to protect others from the droplets produced from your mouth either by coughing or sneezing.
  • These facial coverings are not recommended to be used by healthy people as a medical mask only doesn’t protect against the incoming virus or bacteria. Inefficacy to filter incoming particles is one of the concerning risks of using surgical masks.
  • The edges of surgical masks are loosely-fitted around the nose and mouth hence not providing as effective protection as N95 or FFP3 masks.
  • Medical Masks are single-use equipment. After 2-3 hours of use, it must be changed because the steam emitted by breathing and the viral load eventually collect on the inside.

Uses and Benefits of FFP3 Mask

Uses of FFP3 Mask

The filtering facepiece particulate respirator mask is also known as a respiratory protection mask or respirator. It is certified by the European Union to be used in the medical and health sectors. An FFP3 respirator mask protects against particulates such as dust particles and different airborne viruses.

FFP3 works exactly opposite to that of surgical masks. This half-face mask is used to cover the chin, nose, and mouth depending on filtering efficiency standards (FFP1 with <22% inward leakage, FFP2 with<8% with inward leakage rate, and FFP3 with<2% internal leakage rate).

This protective equipment is commonly used in Laboratories to avoid contact with harmful chemicals and hospitals as a breathing mask preventing incoming infectious pollutants.

Benefits (pros) of FFP3 Masks

  • FFP3 respirator masks are more effective than surgical masks at protecting from outside virulent infections.
  • Since FFP3 masks (99% filtering capacity) are better than N95 (95% filtering capacity) masks, general people can also use it.
  • The edges are tightly fitted and guard against incoming solid and liquid agents.
  • These coverings are highly recommended for healthy people as it keeps you away from dirt and infectious elements while inhaling.
  • A tight covering around the chin, nose, and mouth seals the area properly, assuring no leakage of aerosols or gaseous particles inside the respiratory tract.

Limitations or Cons of Using FFP3 Masks

  • Though FFP3 masks come with the best air-filtering mechanism, these respirators are effective at containing the droplets produced from coughing or sneezing.
  • The plastic piece on the front of these masks is not a filter but a valve that opens when you breathe out letting the unfiltered air go through it.
  • These respirators have very thick filter layers and a higher resistance, which can make breathing more difficult for people with chronic illnesses.
  • If not used correctly, the mask itself can become more dangerous than protective.

The Bottom Line

Both surgical and FFP3 masks have their uses and limitations specific to the conditions. You must also consider using the right protective equipment depending on your status as improper disposal can lead to infection.

Pros and Cons of Surgical and FFP3 Masks - Uses and Benefits

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the disadvantages of medical masks?

A medical mask is not effective at stopping airborne particles coming in while inhaling. Also, these masks are loosely-fitted around Nose and Mouth which turns your more vulnerable to virulent particulate.

Can I use a cloth as a face mask?

A cloth may stop large particles, but not the fine, small ones that can filter into lungs and cause respiratory problems. If you want to use a cloth to cover your face, you need to threefold it to ensure protection from fine particle or droplets.

WHat are the disadvantages of FFP3 respirator?

An FFP3 respirator has a valve to filter the incoming air that doesn't act as a filter for droplets from cough and sneeze. An infected person should not wear FFP3 respirator, as infection can spread easily through respirator-valve.

How long can you wear a respirator?

You can wear a respirator for about 8 hours after which, it can not be reused. You need to find a proper disposal method to ensure health safety.

Does wearing a mask harm your health?

Although wearing a mask may not seem harmful, it is vital to take precautions if sick. If your mask gets too moist, be sure to change it regularly in order to avoid any health risks.

What is the best mask for COVID-19?

According to the CDC, a well-fitting respirator, such as an N95, will provide the highest protection against COVID-19 and is a reasonable choice for many people.

Does wearing a mask increase your CO2 intake?

Though cloth masks and surgical masks cannot provide an airtight seal across the face, the CO2 that escapes when you breathe out or talk is small enough to pass through the mask material easily. In contrast, the respiratory droplets that carry the virus that causes COVID-19 are much larger than CO2, so they cannot pass as easily through a properly designed and adequately worn mask.

What is better N95 or KN95 masks?

KN95 masks and N95s filter out at least 95% of air particles, but N95 masks have stricter pressure drop requirements and are regularly considered the gold standard for masking. The CDC updated its masking recommendations earlier in January as omicron cases surged nationwide.

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