Extended use of personal protective equipment
Personal protective equipment is designed for single use (for example, to be worn during a consultation with one patient or during a single procedure), and then either disposed of (gloves, masks, disposable face shields), cleaned (reusable protective eyewear), or appropriately laundered (gowns). However, in special circumstances, such as during a pandemic, some items of personal protective equipment (eg masks, face shields, gowns) are sometimes worn for a longer period while attending multiple patients (‘extended use’).
This practice may be necessary when there is a shortage of personal protective equipment or it is not practical or necessary to change continually.
In these circumstances, practices must follow health authorities’ advice on when to change personal protective equipment.
Any item must be removed when it becomes contaminated. Masks are removed when they become wet from condensation, or after a specified period.
In general, a surgical mask can be used continuously for up to 4 hours, provided it does not become moist, soiled or damaged. Surgical masks must not be stored or reused after removal. Change a surgical mask if the front of the mask is touched by the wearer.