Purchasing PPE? Three Things You Should Know First

Purchasing PPE? Three Things You Should Know First

Chances are you’ve already purchased PPE for yourself, business, or family. However, most people who are purchasing these items are going in blind when it comes to what to look for. There’s a lot to consider when it comes to quality, price, filtration, regulations, certifications, where it’s manufactured, and so much more. Before purchasing PPE, we’ve outlined three things you should know first.  

Mask Types 

Respirators 

A respirator is a device designed to protect the wearer from inhaling hazardous atmospheres, including fumes, vapors, gases, and particulate matter such as dust and airborne microorganisms. Healthcare professionals that have direct exposure to COVID 19 wear respirator masks as they can filter out a minimum of 95% of airborne contaminants. For a respirator mask to work correctly and provide adequate filtration, the wearer must undergo a “fit test” to ensure a proper tight seal around the face. Many third-party companies have been attempting to sell KN95 respirators or brands that consumers and employees haven’t been fit tested for, seeming them semi-useless due to the inability to ensure an air-tight fit against the wearers face.

Manufacture Location: Respirators are generally made in China. 3M and other American brands also have manufacturing here in the United States, but their manufacturing is backed up. 

Filtration Level: >95%

Standard Price: $1+/Each depending on the brand, quantity, and filtration level 

Surgical Masks 

Contrary to common belief, surgical masks do not provide the wearer with a reliable level of protection from inhaling smaller airborne particles and is not considered respiratory protection. However, surgical masks are fluid resistant and give the wearer protection against large droplets, splashes, or sprays of bodily fluid or other hazardous fluids. Additionally, it protects the patent or other individuals from the wearers’ respiratory emissions. To make matters a little more confusing, surgical masks also have a plastic or metal bridge over the nose so the mask can be better shaped to the wearers face. The plastic bridge is semi-useless because it doesn’t mold appropriately to the nose like a metal bridge would. 

To learn more about masks, the proper fit, certifications, and more, visit our recent article here

Surgical masks are also most commonly manufactured in China. 

Manufacture Location: Surgical masks are commonly manufactured in China. 

Filtration Level: Does not have filtration for the wearer. 

Standard Price: $.20+/Each depending on the brand, quantity, filtration level, ratings, and order quantity.  

Gloves

Gloves are the most common type of PPE used in healthcare settings. There are several things to consider when selecting the right glove for your specified purpose. Most patient care activities require the use of a single pair of nonsterile gloves made of either latex, nitrile, or vinyl. However, due to allergy concerns, many facilities have eliminated latex products, including gloves, and now use gloves made of nitrile. 

The fit of the glove is also an important component. Gloves should fit the wearers’ hands comfortably – they should not be too loose or too tight. They also should not tear or damage easily. Gloves are sometimes worn for several hours and need to stand up to the task.

Globes also come in different sizes and thickness depending on what they should be used for. Understanding the proper thickness is also important to consider before making your purchase.

Manufacture Location: Gloves are most commonly manufactured in Malaysia and Vietnam. Be wary of those made in China as they tend to be more expensive and are lower quality.

Glove Thickness: Standard is 4mil, but they range from 4-8mils. Higher-gauge gloves provide better durability, but less flexibility.

Standard Price: $15+ per box of 100 depending on the order quantity. 

Face Shields 

Face shields are becoming a trend when it comes to being out in public to go to the store, restaurant, or run other errands. However, many people are not purchasing these devices for the proper reasons, and they do not fit the face properly. Shields should be used in addition to maks, not in replacement of. When using a face shield, it should cover the forehead, extend below the chin, and wrap around the side of the face. 

Looking to learn more about PPE, the proper credentials needed, how to find out where they were manufactured, and more? Check out our recent article

Manufacturer Locations: Face shields are also commonly produced in China. You can also find brands here in the United States and Mexico; however, due to higher wages, those that are manufactured here are generally significantly higher in price, not warranting the purchase. 

Standard Price: $3/Each depending on the manufacturer, location, and order quantity. 

With all this in mind, it’s hard to decipher which PPE items are best for your needs. If it were up to me, I would try to get my hands on a respirator I’ve been fit tested for. However, without that option, my next step would be to secure a KN95 that has been approved on the CDC list. Although not the perfect fit, KN95’s were created with huger filtration in mind (significantly higher than a surgical or cloth mask).

Have you been considering purchasing PPE? Let us know in the comments below.  

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About the author

Ashley Carty

Ashley Carty is a seasoned medical professional with over 8 years of experience working at the top hospitals in Southern California, including Hoag, Saddleback Memorial, and UCSD.

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