The world is under fear of Novel Coronavirus and to fight this situation wearing face masks is mandatory to avoid the virus attack. When it comes to face masks, they can be cloth masks, N95 respirator masks, surgical masks, etc.
While the world is facing a shortage of protective masks, we can focus on how they can be re-used and disposed of properly. We should understand the fact that these protective masks are biohazard commodities and how to disinfect, reuse them properly.
It is not just about using the mask but also disposing of it properly matters a lot. Along with masks, you need to take care of hand hygiene and continue sanitizing hands with sanitizers/soap. Make sure you wash your hands for a minimum of 20 seconds. The common masks used are
• Cloth masks
• 3 layered surgical masks
• N95 respirator
Talking about N95 respirator masks, they are not recommended for use by the general public. These respirators come with a filtration capacity of a minimum of 95% of tiny particles (0.3 microns). These respirator masks can extract 95%, 99% & 99.9% of particles, up to 0.3 microns
The right way to dispose of a used N95 respirator mask?
The N95 respirator masks, when not in use should be stored in a tight plastic container and discard and the storage containers should also be cleaned regularly.
When you want to re-use the N95 respirator, make sure you keep the used mask for 3-4 days in the dry atmosphere to dry it properly. When the mask is left to dry out for 3-4 hours, the virus gets destroyed. Hence, stock 4 N95 masks to be used and number them 1 to 4.
It would help you dry the mask used on the first day for the next 3-4 days and so on.
Sterilize N95 respirator the mask
Yet another way is sterilizing your N95 mask which can be done by hanging it inside the oven (without in contact with metal) at around 70 degrees C for half an hour.
UV light deteriorates N95 masks, so do not keep them in sunlight or UV light. Also, name your masks or label them so that no one else uses it accidentally.
Tips for using N95 respirators for a longer period
In case there is a short supply of N95 respirator masks in your city, you can use the mask for a longer period by following useful tips. Using N95 mask for an extended period means wearing the same mask repeatedly while coming in contact with several patients. Yes, the extended use can be brought into implementation when several patients infected with similar pathogens are admitted in the health care unit and also if when they are kept together in allocated hospital wards or waiting rooms. According to the studies, respirators remain effective for 8 hours of continuous/intermittent use within their specific design specifications.
Tips to dispose of the N95 respirator
1. Dispose of N95 respirators after use throughout aerosol-generating procedures.
2. Discard after exposed to any patient infected with an infection
3. Dispose of masks contaminated with respiratory/nasal secretions, blood, or bodily fluids (from the patients)
4. Use clean gloves while wearing used N5 respirator and checking for seal. Dispose of the gloves post-use properly.