Surgical masks have traditionally been worn by those in the medical profession who
are carrying out or assisting in surgery - we’ve all seen them in dental practices
or hospital theatres.
However, these days it’s quite common to see surgical face masks being worn in a
variety of other settings - perhaps the most obvious instance being in countries
where there have been outbreaks of SARS, swine flu or bird flu.
More and more people have taken to wearing a surgical face mask or other type of
mask as a precautionary measure when outbreaks occur, even though their effectiveness
Surgical face masks are commonly worn in densely populated areas of East Asia in
order to prevent spread of the common cold.
Clearly they are beneficial at preventing the wearer from spreading bacteria or viruses
in infectious droplets generated during coughing and sneezing - but they are unlikely
to be very effective in preventing the wearer from inhaling similar particles - a
respirator mask would be the best option to achieve this.
Most modern surgical masks are made of a special type of three-ply paper or non-woven
material and are disposed of after use. They are normally hypoallergenic, and latex
free and fluid resistant.
Among the reasons employees in the medical profession wear them is to prevent bacteria
from being shed in liquid drops from the wearer’s nose or mouth, which could be
very detrimental to patients undergoing operations.