Surgical Masks vs. N95 Respirators
There are two different types of masks: surgical masks and respirators.
>>> A surgical mask is a disposable medical device that can be bought in pharmacy and that protects against infectious agents transmitted by “droplets.” These droplets can be droplets of saliva or secretions from the upper respiratory tract when the wearer exhales.
If worn by the caregiver, the surgical mask protects the patient and his or her environment (air, surfaces, equipment, surgical site). If worn by a contagious patient, it prevents the patient from contaminating his or her surroundings and environment. These masks should not be worn for more than 3 to 8 hours.
A surgical mask can also protect the wearer from the risk of splashes of biological fluids. In this case, the surgical mask must have a waterproof layer. It can also be equipped with a visor to protect the eyes.
But a surgical mask does not protect against “airborne” infectious agents so it will not prevent the wearer from being potentially contaminated by a virus such as the coronavirus.
>>> A respirator is personal protective equipment that prevents the wearer from inhaling aerosols (dust, smoke, mist) as well as vapors or gases (disinfectants, anesthetic gases) that are health hazards. Unavailable in pharmacy, it protects the wearer from airborne infectious agents i.e. against contamination by a virus such as coronavirus, SARS, H1N1, etc.
Respirators are divided into two categories: insulating and filtering. Filtering respirators consist of a facepiece and a filtering device. Sometimes the filter element is integrated into the facepiece. Depending on the type of filter, the mask will either be effective only against particles, only against certain gases and vapors, or against particles, gases and vapors.
Filtering respirators can sometimes also be equipped with an exhalation valve to improve user comfort. The valve prevents condensation inside the mask, misting on the glasses and helps the user breathe in and out easily.
It should be noted that respirators also protect those who wear them from inhaling “droplets” of infectious agents. Respirators can be disposable or reusable. In the second case, it is possible to replace the filter when it is full.