One of the most common things in a hospital setting has to be the surgical mask. They may be almost as universal as standard hospital scrubs. Masks are used to protect against the transmission of harmful germs that can contribute to disease. During the height of flu season and during high-profile outbreaks, they can also be seen in public.

Because of this, it is assumed that surgical masks are highly effective in protecting people from germs. But just how effective are these masks? A medicaldaily.com article tackled that question. Basically, two factors can determine how effective a surgical mask may be: how germs can be transmitted and the location of the person who is sick. 

For germs that must be transmitted in other ways besides airborne transmission, a surgical mask will not be so necessary or effective. But for other diseases that are transferred through the air, a mask can be effective in shielding uninfected people from harmful germs. However, a user must be mindful of whether the mask is the correct size. This is because while the larger particles may be prevented from escaping, smaller particles may escape and make their way into other people.

As such, it is imperative that hospital staff member provide the correct surgical masks to protect patients from those who are contagious, and to wear such masks when treating patients who could pass germs. Indeed, the correct mask can be helpful, but focusing on hand washing is equally as effective. The common denominator is that reasonable care must be incorporated to protect patients in hospital settings.