You may not have used an oxygen mask unless you are an asthma patient but you must, definitely, have seen one while traveling on an airplane or on the television. Remember the air hostess talking about pulling the mask down and wearing it on your face in case of an emergency or in case of high altitudes? That is a typical oxygen mask.
The main purpose of this masks is quite self-explanatory. It supplies oxygen to the wearer of the mask. It is an oxygen delivery device that supplies oxygen from the oxygen storage tank to the lungs of the wearer. It is used only in conditions when a person cannot breathe on his own or cannot draw sufficient amounts of oxygen into the lungs.
Different Types of Oxygen Masks
Before we get into the types, lets discuss the basic styles. There are four styles of oxygen masks -
- Simple Facemask - This is the most common style; it allows 40% oxygen to be delivered to the wearer but the only problem of this style is that the oxygen is diluted because of poor sealing.
- Venturi Mask - This uses a mechanical vent, which increases the rate at which the oxygen flows into the mask. The only problem here is that it delivers only up to 28% oxygen.
- Non-Rebreather Mask - This is a partial rebreather mask and allows as much as 60%-90% of the oxygen to be delivered to the person wearing it. It can only be used as per prescription and with proper medical attention.
There are two basic types of oxygen masks - oral nasal masks that only cove the nose and mouth and full-face masks that cover the entire face. These masks can be made of plastic, silicone or rubber.
- Medical Plastic - These are made of plastic and mostly used by Doctors or other medical care provides for the purpose of oxygen therapy. These plastic masks are disposable and quite cost-effective. They are lightweight and transparent and ideal for those who do not want to wear uncomfortable oxygen masks.
- Silicone and Rubber - These masks are heavier than plastic but are designed so as to prevent the leakage of oxygen while being worn for long periods of time. These masks are worn by aviators, medical researchers and patients who have suffered from carbon monoxide poisoning and are also worn by those in hyperbaric chambers. These are ideal for 100% inhalation of oxygen.
There are other types of oxygen masks as well and these are:
- Aviation Passenger Oxygen Masks - All commercial airplanes are fitted with oxygen masks in case of emergency situations, for higher altitudes and also for when the cabin pressurization system isn't working too well. These masks will automatically drop from overhead compartments when the oxygen levels drop below safe levels and these are used to prevent hypoxia.
- Self Contained Breathing Apparatus/Oxygen Masks - These types of masks are used by firefighters and Emergency Medical care workers. These are full-face masks and provide oxygen to the lungs along with protecting the eyes and the face. These masks are attached to an oxygen storage tank, which can be carried as a backpack.
- Specialized Oxygen Masks for Divers and Astronauts - These are special full-face masks which supply oxygen and other breathing gases to astronauts and divers and can aid in removing nitrogen from the bloodstream before space walks or underwater decompression.
- Oxygen Masks for Altitude - These are special oxygen masks used for those who climb mountains of extreme height like the Mt. Everest or the Himalayas. These oxygen tanks are like bottles of lightweight high strength metal and are filled with oxygen under high pressures. The high-pressure process allows the oxygen to last longer.
Using an oxygen mask can very well save your life in situations of emergency. However, it is not pragmatic to use them without paying close attention to instructions and without proper professional guidance.