Do You Really Need To Wear A Face Mask?

Achoo! Do You Really Need to Wear a Mask?

Here is an excellent presentation on the subject of why and how to effectively wear a face mask for your procedures, which is applicable to body art, as well. Also a bit from OSHA describing the differences between respirators and surgical masks.

Resources for further discussion:

  • CDC HICPAC Standard precautions address droplet transmission of infection, and include recommendation of masks as a precaution for patient [client] protection :

    III.A.1. New Elements of Standard Precautions Infection control problems that are identified in the course of outbreak investigations often indicate the need for new recommendations or reinforcement of existing infection control recommendations to protect patients. Because such recommendations are considered a standard of care and may not be included in other guidelines, they are added here to Standard Precautions. Three such areas of practice that have been added are: Respiratory Hygiene/Cough Etiquette, safe injection practices, and use of masks for insertion of catheters or injection of material into spinal or epidural spaces via lumbar puncture procedures (e.g., myelogram, spinal or epidural anesthesia). While most elements of Standard Precautions evolved from Universal Precautions that were developed for protection of healthcare personnel, these new elements of Standard Precautions focus on protection of patients.

    III.A.1.c. Infection Control Practices for Special Lumbar Puncture Procedues In 2004, CDC investigated eight cases of post-myelography meningitis that either were reported to CDC or identified through a survey of the Emerging Infections Network of the Infectious Disease Society of America. Blood and/or cerebrospinal fluid of all eight cases yielded streptococcal species consistent with oropharyngeal flora and there were changes in the CSF indices and clinical status indicative of bacterial meningitis. Equipment and products used during these procedures (e.g., contrast media) were excluded as probable sources of contamination. Procedural details available for seven cases determined that antiseptic skin preparations and sterile gloves had been used. However, none of the clinicians wore a face mask, giving rise to the speculation that droplet transmission of oralpharyngeal flora was the most likely explanation for these infections. Bacterial meningitis following myelogram and other spinal procedures (e.g., lumbar puncture, spinal and epidural anesthesia, intrathecal chemotherapy) has been reported previously 906-915. As a result, the question of whether face masks should be worn to prevent droplet spread of oral flora during spinal procedures (e.g., myelogram, lumbar puncture, spinal anesthesia) has been debated 916, 917. Face masks are effective in limiting the dispersal of oropharyngeal droplets 918 and are recommended for the placement of central venous catheters 919. In October 2005, the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee (HICPAC) reviewed the evidence and concluded that there is sufficient experience to warrant the additional protection of a face mask for the individual placing a catheter or injecting material into the spinal or epidural space.

Further references

“DO YOU REALLY NEED TO WEAR A FACE MASK?” The Operating Theatre Journal

Surgical face masks: protection of self or patient? annrcse01579-0011

OR masks – Safe practice or habit? – operating room – Editorial _ AORN Journal

3 thoughts on “Do You Really Need To Wear A Face Mask?”

    • Hannah : the presentation was for surgeons, and we are clearly not. However, it makes the risks clear, and the Regulations & Recommendations, such as:

      CDC – Guideline for Prevention of Surgical Site Infection, 1999

      “Wear a surgical mask that fully covers the mouth and nose when entering the operating room if an operation is about to begin or already under way, or if sterile instruments are exposed. Wear the mask throughout the operation.” (Category IB and OSHA

      Maneram A J, et al, American Journal of Infection Control, 1999; 27:97-132

      What I expect people to get from this is that even surgical staff don't want to wear a mask, and many even think it is silly. However, significant evidence stands that wearing a mask protects both the worker and the subject during a procedure. This has been proven repeatedly over the last decades of evidence based medicine. We can either take their studies at face value, or make meaningless assumptions until we make our own industry specific studies.

      Until then, "Masks must be worn over both nose and mouth” is the repeated protocol found just about everywhere when dealing with sterile instruments and items that are inserted into the body that have to heal in place.

      More information on selecting masks


Share what you think

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.