Face masks have become a part of our daily lives since March 2020. Although some open-air places are starting to allow going mask-less now, we still keep one in our purses, just in case. Face masks give us a sense of safety and security, whether we’ve been vaccinated or not.
If you’re also a germophobe, you probably wear surgical gloves, too, especially before opening packages or when you shop at the grocery. But how safe are these medical devices? How do they protect us against viruses?
By no means, the point of this blog isn’t to make you doubt the safety of medical instruments. Rather, it aims to explain why the materials they’re made of protect us against unsafe substances. After reading this, you may find yourself trusting health experts and protective equipment more. This can also help you educate your peers who are still against mask-wearing and protecting themselves in any way.
That said, here are some facts about how medical instruments are made safe:
1. Medical Instruments Go Through Thorough Sterilization
During their manufacturing process, medical instruments, including surgical gloves, go through an autoclave. It’s a machine used by high-grade rubber product manufacturers to sterilize their items. The autoclave provides a physical method of sterilization by killing bacteria, viruses, and spores. It resembles a tank, but instead of storing water, an autoclave locks in certain materials then subjects them to heat for a predetermined period. In healthcare, an autoclave is also known as a steam sterilizer.
The autoclave works like a pressure cooker, so while materials are inside it, no outside air can seep through and contaminate the materials. That’s why surgical gloves are safe to use the moment you take them out of the packaging. You don’t need to disinfect them again or wash them with soap and water. But for your peace of mind, it’s also okay to wash surgical gloves before using them. What’s more important is that you won’t reuse them.
2. Surgical Gloves are Often Made of Latex
If surgical gloves make your hands have an allergic reaction, it’s not that the gloves are dirty. Instead, you may have a latex allergy. In this case, the FDA recommends using surgical gloves made of synthetic materials, such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC), nitrile, or polyutherane. If you’re about to have a medical exam or surgery, it’s important to determine if you have a latex allergy. The effects on your body can be adverse if your doctor uses latex gloves on you, not knowing that you’re allergic.
3. Cloth Face Mask Should be Used in Multiple Layers
Since cloth masks aren’t medical-grade, they don’t protect you from viruses as well as a surgical or N-94 or N-95 mask does. However, studies found that using multiple layers of cloth masks — ideally made of different fabrics — can provide stronger protection than a single layer of cloth mask.
Two layers of tightly woven fabrics will work too. For example, a two-layer T-shirt mask with a sewn edge prevented 79% of mouth bacteria from spreading to the environment during coughing. In comparison, one layer of a disposable medical mask can provide 85% of protection.
Using cloth masks has other benefits, such as being better for the environment. They’re washable and reusable, not to mention fashionable.
4. Blue Surgical Masks are Also Made of a Type of Fabric
Polypropylene, a type of fabric made from a thermoplastic polymer, is commonly used to create blue surgical masks. Alternatives include other thermoplastic polymer derivatives, such as polystyrene and polyester, to name a few.
Some reports found blue surgical masks to contain formaldehyde and bronopol. However, this is unusual, as those substances can cause contact dermatitis or allergic reactions. In addition, a surgical mask shouldn’t contain polytetrafluoroethylene, a.k.a. Teflon. To be completely sure of the safety of your blue surgical mask, check the packaging, or buy only from trusted sources.
5. Medical Instruments are Always Sterilized Before and After Use
Going to the dentist or undergoing physical exams can be daunting nowadays. After all, dentists and doctors tend to prod and poke you with various instruments. But worry not because those instruments are thoroughly sterilized before and after use. No dentist or doctor would use an unclean instrument on a patient.
Medical instruments are sterilized in various ways. One of them is moist heat, which is the use of an autoclave. Others are dry heat, ethylene oxide gas, radiation, and vaporized hydrogen peroxide. Those names may sound scary and toxic, but they’re completely safe.
Based on these facts, medical devices and face masks are 100% safe, as long as you’re not allergic to the materials they’re made of. Also, wash your wash thoroughly before handling any of them to avoid defeating their purpose.