When are surgical face masks used?

24 Nov 2021
Categories: News Products

surgical face masksIn the first of this series of face mask related posts – the medical face mask guide, I gave you an overview of the different types of face masks used in medical settings. Today’s post describes the different uses of surgical face masks, both elasticated ear loop and tie-on.

Healthcare surgical masks use in the context of viral respiratory tract infection has two objectives:

  1. To reduce the risk of droplet transmission of infection to others
  2. To reduce the risk of droplet transmission of infection to the wearer

Surgical masks are worn by healthcare workers when they are providing care to people within 2 metres, regardless of the COVID-19 status of the patient.


The HSE states that surgical face masks should be worn by all healthcare workers for all encounters of 15 minutes or more with other healthcare workers in the workplace where a distance of 2 metres cannot be maintained.

In surgery, doctors must change their surgical mask at least every two hours.

Irema makes two categories of surgical masks for use in medical settings: Type II and Type IIR. These can either be tie-on or have elasticated ear loops. Some uses are interchangeable but they do have individual uses. The minimum Bacteria Filtration Efficiency (BFE) for surgical masks is >98%.


Ear loop surgical face masks

Ear loop is the type we have become familiar over the last 2 years. We are still using our own cloth made masks regularly on planes, in shops and walking around restaurants. The surgical quality that we can also buy in shops such as Boots have a higher level of bacterial filtration.


Style Type Use
Classic II and IIR Hospital staff

General public

Non-surgical procedures that do not involve spray or fluid

XtraComfort II and IIR Special material for people with sensitive skin



Special material for non-surgical procedures involving spray or fluid



Here’s a video from the HSE (Irish Health Service Executive) on how to safely put on and take off a medical mask with ear loops.


Tie-on surgical face masks

Studies show that tie-on masks provide stronger protection than ear loop masks as the ties can be adjusted to fit each face better than elastic. This is why tie-ons are favoured for use in surgical procedures.



Style Type Use
XtraComfort II People with sensitive skin

Minor procedures


Anti-fog II  

For people with glasses





For people with beards or large faces



Procedures involving spray or fluid



In Ireland, healthcare workers

“are more used to using these [tie-on] masks as they are used to putting them on and taking them off in a way that reduces the risk of contamination… It’s easier to take them off without risk of contamination than ear-loops” Professor Martin Cormican

Watch the video to learn how to safely put on a tie-on medical mask.



Why the different colours you ask? Well blue as you know tends to be for general use whereas green and white tend to be used in surgery. But really there is no difference in the mask itself.


Related posts

The Irema medical face mask guide


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