The world these days is facing severe panic situation due to COVID-19 and face masks have become an important component nowadays for our protection. But due to this pandemic there is a serious shortage of masks and respirators.
Few questions which come up while using these safety respirators: How to reuse these masks? What is the right way of disposing the masks without affecting our environment? Remember it’s not just using safety respirators but proper disposal which is also equally important.
While using safety respirators make sure you:
- Don’t touch the outer or inner surface of the respirator.
- Avoid touching eyes, nose and ears.
- Make sure it fits and completely covers your nose and mouth, not just hanging loosely around the neck.
- Make use of the head straps to adjust the respirator for proper fitting.
- When not in use, it’s better to store in a breathable container such as a paper bag. Let them sit in the well-ventilated area to dry in the meantime.
Can we reuse the Respirators?The short answer is “Yes”, but it comes with some safety instructions.
Venus has introduced a new type of reusable Filtering Facepiece Respirators (FFR) namely V-SHWAS series. It includes the following masks:
Figure 1: V-Shwas Deluxe
Instructions before reuse of Venus Respirators:
- Do not reuse the respirator contaminated with blood, respiratory or nasal secretions, or other bodily fluids from patients.
- Do not reuse any respirator that is damaged or becomes hard to breathe through.
- During extreme conditions, consider the use of a cleanable face shield over a respirator and/or other steps (e.g., masking patients, use of engineering controls), when feasible to reduce surface contamination of the masks.
- Hang the used respirator in a designated storage area or keep them in a clean, breathable container such as a paper bag between uses. To minimize potential cross-contamination, store it so that they do not touch each other and the person using the respirator is clearly identified. Storage containers should be disposed off or cleaned regularly.
- Clean hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer before and after touching or adjusting the respirator (if necessary for comfort or to maintain it fit).
- Avoid touching the inside of the respirator. If inadvertent contact is made with the inside of it, discard the respirator and perform hand hygiene methods.
- Use a pair of clean gloves when donning a used respirator and performing a user seal check. Discard gloves after the respirator is donned and any adjustments are made to ensure the respirator mask is sitting comfortably on your face with a good seal.
- Secondary exposures can occur from respirator mask reuse if it is shared among other users and at least one of the users is infectious (symptomatic or asymptomatic). Thus, masks must only be used by a single person and not shared with others.
- Label containers used for storing respirators and label the respirator itself (e.g., writing a user’s name on the straps to reduce accidental usage of another person’s respirator.)
Various methods of Reuse of Venus Respirators:
Washing with warm water:
Make sure the Venus respirator is dry before using this method. Rinse it with warm water at 700C for 3-4 minutes. It is suggested that it kills viruses and microorganisms and preserves the filter for reuse. There should be no contact of the respirator with other used respirators. Also, there should be no contact of the metal surface to it. 3 cycles of reuse allowed.
Chemical sterilization with liquid Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2):
Submerge the used respirator in 6% H2O2 for 15 mins. Dry and reuse it. 3 cycles of reuse allowed.
This is a simple way of reusing the respirators. Drying it kills the virus, but it takes at least 48 hours to dry. Therefore drying in a clean, dry place for 72 hours (3 days) is one way of reusing the respirator.
The only issue is that you have to wait for 3 days to reuse it. If you have four respirators, wear the first respirator, then keep it for drying for 3 days, then use a second respirator, and thus follow this routine. Keep the used respirator in a paper bag away from direct sunlight and ultraviolet rays. If in the meantime, the respirator becomes soiled, damaged or difficult to breathe, you need to discard it. Always practice hand hygiene before removing and wearing it again the next time. 3 cycles of reuse allowed.
What NOT do?
- Do not use detergent and soap to clean it.
- Do not squeeze the respirator as it will damage the filters.
- Don’t use sanitizer and soapy water.
How to properly dispose the used Venus Respirators?
- Respirator mask should be cut from the middle and destroyed.
- Discard used one using aerosol-generating procedures.
- We should treat respirators as medical waste.
- Put it in a plastic bag or a zip-lock bag. Make sure the bag is tightly sealed.
- Put the bag in the garbage can or biomedical waste disposal unit.
- Never put a new respirator until you have washed your hands properly.
People often face problems with their facial hair, when it comes to respirator fit. Tight-fitting respirators require the wearer’s face to be cleanly shaven where the respirator’s seal comes in contact with the skin. For those people who are uncomfortable with the fit, Venus also provides reusable Half Face Mask (HFM) and reusable Full Face Mask (FFM).
There is as such no definitive "best way" to reuse respirators. These methods are options in times of crisis when there is a shortage and should not be used on a routine basis. With precautions and safety measures, we can prevent the spread of infection to ourselves as well as the people around us. So stay safe and follow the hygiene methods all the time. Hoping the world will be COVID free soon.