Clinician wearing a filtering facepiece respirator checking a patient’s pulse

Understanding Respiratory Protection

We can help provide guidance on the different types of respiratory protection, understanding proper use of respirators and helping to protect your skin from prolonged PPE use.

Learning More about Respiratory Protection

Clinician wearing a filtering facepiece respirator
Respiratory Protection in Health Care

We’re here to answer your questions on 3M™ Surgical Filtering Facepiece Respirator (FFRs) and Surgical Mask use, fit and other considerations to help protect yourself.

Mask vs. Respirator. What is the difference?

  • Mask versus Respirator. What is the difference? video still
    Mask vs. Respirator. What is the difference?
  • Surgical N95 Respirators versus Standard N95 Respirators video still
    Surgical N95 Respirators versus Standard N95 Respirators

How 3M™ Surgical Filtering Facepiece Respirators (FFRs) Work

  • Illustration of air flowing through a filtering facepiece respirator
    The Science Behind Respiratory Protection

    Our unique manufacturing process injects a powerful electrostatic charge into an open formation material, improving the efficiency of particle trapping while allowing more air to pass through. This results in highly effective respirators—NIOSH-approved and FDA-cleared for fluid resistance.

  • Illustration of captured particles
    Take a Closer Look at Trapping Airborne Particles

    Illustration of how 3M’s electrostatically charged microfibers—magnified 10,000 times—attract and capture particles from the air.


Frequently Asked Questions on Respirators

  • Does a surgical mask provide respiratory protection?

    The primary purpose of a surgical mask is to help prevent biological particles (e.g. bacteria and viruses) from being expelled by the wearer into the environment. Surgical masks are not necessarily designed to seal tightly to the face, so air might leak around the edges and therefore may not provide protection to your lungs.

    Learn More (PDF, 322.92 KB)

  • There is no time limit to wearing a N95 respirator. Respirators can be worn until they are dirty, damaged or difficult to breathe through.
  • To be effective, a respirator needs to be worn correctly and worn throughout the duration of the hazardous exposure.

    Don:
     

    1. Hold the respirator in the palm of your hand with the straps facing the floor (If using a flat fold respirator; pull open the folds into a cup shape before placing in the palm of your hand).
    2. Place the N95 respirator on your face covering your nose and mouth.
    3. Pull the bottom strap up and over the top of your head and place at the back of your head below you ears.
    4. Pull the upper strap up and over top of your head, and put it behind your head at the crown of your head.
    5. Use both hands to mold the nosepiece to fit snugly against your nose and face.
    6. Perform a user seal check according to manufacturer instructions to ensure there is a good seal against the skin.

    Doff: Do NOT touch the front of the respirator.
     

    1. Tilt your head forward. Then, use two hands to grab the bottom strap, pull to the sides, then over your head.
    2. Use both hands to grab the upper strap, pull to the sides, then over your head. Keep tension on the upper strap as you remove it, which will let the respirator fall forward and be removed.
  • Re-Don:
     

    1. Wash hands per facility protocol
    2. Apply clean gloves
    3. Inspect respirator for holes, tears or other damage or soiling to surface, straps, metal nose clip and nose foam. Get a new respirator if damaged or soiled.
    4. Hold the respirator in the palm of your hand with the straps facing the floor (If using a flat fold respirator; pull open the folds into a cup shape before placing in the palm of your hand).
    5. Place the N95 respirator on your face covering your nose and mouth. Avoid touching the inside of the respirator.
    6. Pull the upper strap and put it behind your head and place at the back of your head.
    7. Pull the bottom strap up and over top of your head, and put it behind your head below your ears.
    8. Use both hands to mold the nosepiece to fit snugly against your nose and face. Perform a user seal check according to manufacturer instructions to ensure there is a good seal against the skin.
    9. Remove and discard gloves. Wash hands per facility protocol.

    Doff for storage and reuse:
     

    1. Wash hands per facility protocol
    2. Apply clean gloves
    3. Tilt your head forward. Then, with gloves on, use two hands to grab the bottom strap, pull to the sides, then over your head.
    4. Use both hands to grab the upper strap, pull to the sides, then over your head. Keep tension on the upper strap as you remove it, which will let the respirator fall forward and be removed.
    5. Inspect respirator for holes, tears or other damage or soiling to surface, straps, metal nose clip and nose foam. Discard respirator if damaged or soiled.
    6. Place respirator in facility approved storage for reuse and wash hands per facility protocol.

    Tips for Using a Filtering Facepiece Respirator Video

    Learn more (PDF, 505.48 KB)

Clinician wearing PPE
PPE and Skin Protection

Prolonged use of PPE may impact skin and cause various levels of skin breakdown. Explore some simple ways you can help protect skin and minimize breakdown.

Helping You Face the Challenge


Frequently Asked Questions on Preventing PPE-related Skin Injuries

  • Can I use ointments (e.g. petroleum jelly) to protect my skin under a 3M filtering facepiece respirator (FFR), such as a N95 respirator?
    3M does not recommend the use of petroleum jelly (also known as petrolatum), ointments, or thick creams because of the potential for interference with the seal of any 3M FFRs, such as N95 respirators. Petroleum jelly may cause the respirator to slip around on the face.
  • Yes, 3M™ Cavilon™ No Sting Barrier Film will help protect intact skin from moisture and friction and, when used properly, would not be expected to interfere with the fit¹ of 3M FFR.

    *Please refer to the product inserts (Instructions for use) for 3M™ Cavilon™ No Sting Barrier Film and/or 3M™ Cavilon™ Advanced Skin Protectant for complete Indications and Instructions for Use, Contraindications, Precautions, and Warnings.

    ¹No effect on respirator fit was observed in studies comparing the fit of filtering facepiece respirators with and without these Cavilon products applied to skin as shown in this application guide (PDF, 139 KB). If there is any doubt or concern regarding the impact of these products on the respirator’s seal, employees should be fit tested with these products applied to the skin as they would be during respirator wear.

  • 3M™ Cavilon™ Advanced Skin Protectant*,** can be used to help protect damaged skin, e.g. abrasions from friction or other superficial skin damage.

    The 0.7 ml applicator is recommended.
     

    • It can be used on the face, but should not be applied in or near the eye
    • The product should be applied in a thin layer
    • The product should be allowed to dry completely (at least 90 seconds) before the FFR is donned (put on). This allows fluid to dry on the skin and vapors to dissipate.
    • Upon application, an odor may be noted as the solvent ingredient evaporates. The odor will disappear as the product dries.
    • Always read and follow all respirator user instructions, including conducting a use seal check every time the respirator is donned (put on).
    • We recommend starting with a 2-3 times per week application. If the user notes buildup of the product, decrease the frequency of application, e.g. 1-2 times/week.
    • Cavilon Advanced Skin Protectant does not require removal but can be removed with a medical adhesive remover containing hexamethyldisiloxane or a silicone.
    • Every time an FFR is donned, the wearer must conduct a user seal check. If a successful user seal check cannot be conducted, the wearer should not use the product with the respirator.

    *Please refer to the product inserts (Instructions for use) for 3M™ Cavilon™ No Sting Barrier Film and/or 3M™ Cavilon™ Advanced Skin Protectant for complete Indications and Instructions for Use, Contraindications, Precautions, and Warnings.

    **USA only: Federal Law (U.S.A.) restricts the device to sale by or on the order of a health care professional.

  • The 0.7 ml† is recommended.

    If the 2.7 ml† applicator is used, the following steps are recommended to minimize fluid dripping or pooling during application:
     

    • Open and retain package nearby.
    • Activate the applicator and allow the foam to fill.
    • Press the foam applicator against the white package flap to express excess fluid.
    • Then, apply as indicated.

    †Single use only

  • Once completely dry on the skin, 3M Cavilon No Sting Barrier Film or 3M Cavilon Advanced Skin Protectant is not expected to transfer off the skin onto FFRs. However, 3M has not tested FFRs for the presence of residual barrier film or skin protectant, or the impact that this material could have on decontamination processes.

    Note: No effect on respirator fit was observed in studies comparing the fit of filtering facepiece respirators with and without these Cavilon products applied to skin as shown in this application guide (PDF, 139 KB). If there is any doubt or concern regarding the impact of these products on the respirator’s seal, employees should be fit tested with these products applied to the skin as they would be during respirator wear.

  • 3M does not recommend use of dressings such as polyurethane foams and hydrocolloids. These types of dressings can raise the respirator off the cheeks and nose and may interfere with the intended seal and exposure reduction associated with the respirator.
     

    • If use of a dressing or bandage is desired, select the thinnest dressing available (e.g. 3M™ Tegaderm™ Transparent Film Dressing) AND perform fit testing, as well as a user seal check every time the respirator is donned (put on).
    • Fit testing (PDF, 77.07 KB) should be conducted following local regulatory requirements or recognized fit test protocol where fit testing is not required by local regulation.
    • For those respirators with adjustable headbands, it is important to not over-tighten the headbands as this can interfere with the seal against the skin and increase the risk of pressure-related skin damage

    Note: Dressings or film barriers can be used to help prevent or cover areas of skin damage under equipment, such as face shields, where fit and seal is not critical to the function of the protective equipment.

Clinician wearing a half facepiece reusable respirator
Respiratory Product Options

As a healthcare worker, your work is critical. And so is your choice of respiratory protection. That’s why 3M offers a range of respiratory protection options. Learn more about the different types of respirators and understand proper donning and doffing techniques.

Respiratory Protection Options for Health Care

Explore the range of respiratory protection options for healthcare settings.


Additional Respiratory Protection Resources

  • With supply challenges around the world, many facilities are looking for ways to optimize their equipment supply. Read more information on use and reuse of filtering facepiece respirators (FFRs).

  • Fit testing is a critical part of your respiratory protection program. Learn more about fit testing and resources available to help protect your team.


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