Masks are known to be used in medical-related fields, or they could also be used at work if the workplace contains so much dust. Masks are known to shield every person from anything foreign that could possibly enter the mouth and nose. Especially during this time, the whole world is undergoing a pandemic brought by a pulmonary virus called the COVID-19. It has dawned on the world and ever since then, people of the world must abide by the rules and regulations of wearing a mask to protect themselves from the virus and to prevent themselves from sharing their own variant of the virus if they are infected by it.
In surgery, it is compulsory for surgeons and any other medical staff that are participating in the surgical operation to wear their scrubs or uniforms to maintain a hygienic environment within the surgical room as well as it helps recognize the person on duty.
Besides scrubs, surgeons also wear face masks to protect themselves and the patient as well. Protection in a way that surgeons talk during surgery and it is unavoidable for some saliva or other fluids from the nose to disperse in the air, and there is no certainty that it might carry some foreign substances that could affect the other medical staff within the operation room as well as the patient.
If it is in another way around, surgeons wear masks to protect themselves from any pathogens that a patient they are operating are carrying. Some of the patient’s fluid like blood could splatter to the surgeon and it is of no certainty that it could harm or not harm the others which is why it is best to remain safe and protect each other.
But since surgeons spend long durations of time inside the operation room and surgical masks must only be worn for a short duration of time, then how long does a surgeon wear a mask until they change into a new one? What is the average amount of masks do surgeons change into in a day?
Structure of Surgical Mask and How Long Does It Have to be Worn?
A surgical mask is composed of three layers of very absorbent fabric and cotton. The outer layer is composed of polyester, which is not that absorbent unlike the middle and inner layers of the masks which are made of polypropylene and cotton.
Since the masks are highly absorbent, it is a strict rule to not wear over 4 hours since there is a possibility that the mask had already absorbed multiple molecules of bacteria or different pathogens that could cause different types of diseases.
This happens when a person who wears the mask had been exposed to an environment where it is unhygienic and the pathogens could have travelled through air and was absorbed by the fabric of the mask, which are now entrapped in the fibers, waiting to find its new host.
Another factor is that when a mask has been wet or has absorbed even the tiniest bit of droplets from any fluids. It could leak through the layers of mask and possibly infect the wearer of it which is why a person has only about 4 hours maximum of time to wear a mask and it is still considered safe, but if a person goes way beyond the time limit, there is a huge possibility that the person could get infected by whatever pathogen has been absorbed by the mask.
How Often Do Surgeons Change Masks?
Since we finally have a firm grasp about the context of masks in the medical field, let us answer how often do surgeons really change their mask during a surgery.
Research has said that the average time of when a surgeon should change their mask is about 2 hours or sometimes, even just 90 minutes since they are heavily exposed to different types of pathogens and other communicable diseases within the operating room due to it being enclosed, crowded with a surgical team, and having close contact with the patient.
Another factor is that surgeons could experience difficulty in breathing but they have no choice but to breathe inside their masks. Which could lead to certain effects such as the humidity inside of the mask caused by the breathing through the mouth and nose could make the mask damp and more prone to bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens because damp surfaces, moist environments, and warm areas could attract microorganisms.
This is the reason why a surgeon must change their mask often in order to ensure a safe procedure without contaminating anyone in the operating room.
How to Properly Dispose of Masks to Avoid Contamination?
Since we are in the time and situation wherein wearing a mask is seen as the new normal, we purchase a multitude of it so that we could have unlimited stocks for it. But once we stop using it and buy another, or if we are from outside and have to remove it, how would we be able to dispose of the mask properly without contaminating anyone or anything with the virus?
Here are the following steps to ensure a safe disposal of masks and protect yourselves and family from the virus:
- Wash the hands thoroughly. Before taking the mask off, a person must wash their hands with antibacterial soap and water.
- Take off the mask. Take note that when taking the mask off, do not touch the main part of the mask but only the straps that loops onto the ears since the main bodice of the mask, the one that covers half of the face, is saturated with virus, bacteria, and other pathogens.
- Place the mask inside a plastic bag. After taking the mask off, place it inside a plastic bag, to ensure your safety better, put the plastic bag that contains the mask into another plastic bag.
- Throw the mask in the bin. Next step, throw the contained used mask in the trash bin.
- Wash hands again. Once you are done with the disposal of your mask, wash your hands again.