Face Masks and Respirators

Protection against airborne infection

The CDC recommends the use of surgical masks and respirators in healthcare settings to help protect against airborne infection.

Importance of Single-use N95 Respirators


According to a study of disposable N95 respirators and standard medical face masks conducted by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies (IOM) and commissioned by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), "A properly fitted N95 respirator is.the least expensive and the most widely available respirator for protecting healthcare workers and the public against airborne infection." The study also stated, "Properly fitted respirators provide better protection against airborne transmission of infection than do medical masks."

As to the question of whether disposable N95 respirators can be safely reused, the study concluded, "without manufacturing modifications, disposable N95 respirators cannot be effectively cleaned or disinfected and should therefore be discarded after each use."2

Guidance on the use of respirators and face masks continues to be updated. Click here for the most current recommendations from CDC

CDC Recommendations

  1. NIOSH-certified respirators (N-95 or higher) are recommended for use during activities that have a high likelihood of generating infectious respiratory aerosols,[c] including the following high-risk situations:

    • Aerosol-generating procedures
    • Resuscitation of a patient
    • Providing direct care for patients with confirmed or suspected pandemic influenza-associated pneumonia

    In the event of actual or anticipated shortages of N95 respirators:

    • Other NIOSH-certified N-, R-, or P-class respirators should be considered in lieu of the N95 respirator.
    • If re-useable elastomeric respirators are used, these respirators must be decontaminated according to the manufacturer's instructions after each use.
    • Powered air purifying respirators (PAPRs) may be considered for certain workers and tasks
  2. Use of N95 respirators for other direct care activities involving patients with confirmed or suspected pandemic influenza is also prudent. Hospital planners should take this into consideration during planning and preparation in their facilities when ordering supplies.

    In addition, several measures can be employed to minimize the number of personnel required to come in contact with suspected or confirmed pandemic influenza patients, thereby reducing worker exposure and minimizing the demand for respirators.

    If supplies of N-95 (or higher) respirators are not available, surgical masks can provide benefits against large droplet exposure, and should be worn for all health care activities for patients with confirmed or suspected pandemic-influenza.

    Respirator use should be in the context of a complete respiratory protection program in accordance with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations. Detailed information on respiratory protection programs, including fit test procedures, can be accessed at OSHA's Respiratory Protection eTool

Respiratory Protection Programs and Respirator Fit Testing

When respirator use is necessary, OSHA requires that healthcare facilities have a Written Respiratory Protection Program in place that includes information on how to:

  • Identify respiratory hazards
  • Select the correct respirator
  • Ensure employees are medically able to wear respirators
  • Fit test each employee
  • Train employees on proper respirator use
  • Conduct regular program evaluations
  • Comply with recordkeeping requirements

Halyard can provide hospitals with a guide to establishing a comprehensive Respiratory Protection Program. This tool will guide you in the creation of a Written Respiratory Protection Program for your facility, in accordance with OSHA requirements. It provides program checklists, a written program template, and the associated forms and documents necessary to comply with OSHA regulations. Also included are respirator user training and fit test training videos.

In addition, complete fit testing kits for N95 respirators are available to assist you in meeting requirements for fit testing any employee that wears a respirator. Please contact your Halyard sales representative for additional information on these resources.

For instructions on fit testing and tips for completing fit testing, click on the links below:

Qualitative Fit Test Instructions for N95 Respirators

Qualitative Fit Testing Tips for N95 Respirators

Click on the links below for more information on Halyard Respirators

FLUIDSHIELD* Ported N95 Particulate Filter Respirators

FLUIDSHIELD* N95 Particulate Respirator Singles

HALYARD* Health Care Respirators