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Although both are sometimes called "masks", these protective devices serve different purposes. The types of surgical masks and N95 respirators vary greatly in their fit to the face. Here's a breakdown of the differences between surgical masks and n95 mask ,as well as the protection they offer.

Surgical Masks

The FDA states that a surgical face mask is "a loose-fitting, disposable device which creates a physical barrier between your mouth and nose and any potential contaminants in the immediate surroundings." It is designed to stop liquids like blood and sputum sprays from entering the environment. FDA states that although a surgical mask can block splashes and large particles, it cannot filter out or block small particles in the air that could be transmitted through coughs, sneezes, or other medical procedures.

Surgical masks are made to fit loosely around the nose and mouth. A surgical mask is not designed to protect the respiratory system. They do not filter smaller particles.

Additionally, surgical masks do not meet the same standards as N95 or higher-level respirators. They have not been approved by the National Institute for Occupation Safety and Health, but are instead cleared by FDA. The FDA has cleared surgical masks. They are also not designed to create a tight seal for users' faces. The purpose of surgical masks is not to protect the wearer from small particles but to protect the surgical field against contamination.
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