How long is really too long? The question is while respirators like the N95 or KN95 have “limited reuse” periods should we consider to reuse masks? Well in a healthcare setting, some level of reusing masks more than once outside in non-emergency scenarios is possible. The reuse of masks is not uncommon especially during a pandemic situation. Or when the number of masks is low, calling for supply conservation strategies.
In a healthcare scenario, it’s advisable to follow the instructions on the box. Look out for “Single-Use”, “Disposable” or “Limited Reuse” labels on the boxes. If you require further clarification you can consult your local health and infection control departments. The decision to implement the “Limited Reuse” of the mask needs to be by case to case basis. Reusing masks will have to depend on the scenario that the healthcare workers are facing, and also how serious is the situation they are faced with, and the reasons behind having to use the mask in that environment.
Regarding “Limited Reuse” for respirators.
When reusing the mask it’s important to ensure that the mask stays clean and stored in a clean or sterile bag or container and must retain its fit when placed back on the face and must be functional. Another point is to make sure that the bag is also breathable as it will allow the mask to be able to “air out” better. It’s important to minimize contact with the mask surface ensuring that your hands are properly cleaned before and after handling the mask.
While there are various scenarios and practical situations which dictate reusing the mask in healthcare there are certain occasions that it becomes necessary to throw out the mask which includes discarding the respirators:
– after aerosol-generating procedures (AGPs)
– when it comes in contact with blood or bodily fluid from patients.
– when coming in close contact or after entering or leaving an area or room of care with an infectious patient.
– the respirator when it becomes damaged doesn’t fit properly or becomes too hard to breathe with.
Reusing Masks in a non-healthcare scenario.
In a non-healthcare scenario as we would recommend the same precautions on whether we should or should not reuse masks. We also recommend that you do not use spray disinfectants into the bag or container that you are storing the used mask in. Doing so will potentially wet the mask, and may lead to potentially breathing in the chemicals.
Also, do ensure proper handling of the mask on removal. To safely remove your mask and touch as little of its surface as possible, use the ear straps to remove and handle the mask with clean hands or gloves. The majority of virus particles would be on the front, so avoid touching that part of the mask before storing it away. Most masks are designed to perform to lab standards and fit. We would suggest discarding the mask once it loses its shape or fit.
PEPCO masks are created in a dust-free environment. designed to not encourage cross-contamination. To learn more about our factory and processes read this article here. And if you wish to get in touch with us for your mask supply needs please drop us an email. We would love to hear from you.