New best practice guidelines have been drawn up by a Healthcare Infection Society (HIS) working group on the use of respiratory and facial protection equipment.
The guidance has been published in the Journal of Hospital Infection and recommends that a surgical face mask should be routinely worn by health professionals who are treating patients with respiratory infections. These include pneumonia and influenza.
It is also advised that healthcare providers wear a mask when dealing with rubella, mumps and meningitis, however a respirator should be employed should patients have conditions such as measles or chickenpox.
As well as recommending when to wear masks, respirators and eye protection the guidance outlined how to correctly fit and remove such equipment in a safe and practical manner.
This latest advice should help healthcare professionals who encounter conflicting practices in the workplace when it comes to protective equipment and is hoped to help stem the spread of infections within hospital environments.
Authors wrote in the document that it was apparent "that healthcare workers may have difficulty in choosing the correct type of facial and respiratory protection in any given clinical situation", meaning the guidelines could prove extremely useful professionally.
A HIS spokeswoman commented on the article and explained to Nursing Times that the advice was appropriately released in time for winter flu season.
She said that the guidance provided important information for nursing staff and other healthcare providers in both hospital and community settings. "The publication highlights the risks associated with infectious particles and their routes of transmission and includes an extensive table as to when a surgical facemask or respirator should be worn, plus a list of dos and don'ts on using this equipment safely," the spokeswoman added.
A surgical face mask was recommended in the "majority of situations" to provide adequate respiratory and facial protection, acting as a barrier to splashes and droplets.
However, a respirator can also be used to protect against particles spread by coughing and sneezing and eye protection should be worn by those present in aerosol-generating procedures.
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