Convert 3M respirator for use during blood donation?
April 23, 2020 10:23 PM   Subscribe

I have a respirator (think Breaking Bad) that I have been wearing during the few times I'm within 5 meters of another person. I have an appointment to donate blood. I would like to protect the phlebotomist to the same level as a well-fitting cloth mask, but the respirator has a one-way vent. What should I do?

This respirator is from years ago when I was recoating the bathroom tub, but it works really well. The problem is that it only filters on the way in. I have a tightly woven homemade cloth mask that I wear during outdoor exercise, but wearing only that during a 90-minute procedure seems foolhardy. The Red Cross safety procedures are OK but not that encouraging.

I have an N95 mask (from woodworking, I've always been big into PPE) that I could tape to the outlet of the respirator using gaff / duct tape. Is that the best choice? Or will the staff be wearing N95 or equivalent PPE and I maybe I shouldn't worry? Assume I have not been near anyone outside my household for a month and have otherwise been taking all precautions, but am not going to cancel my appointment unless I or someone in my household becomes ill.
posted by wnissen to Health & Fitness (6 answers total)
I would expect the American Red Cross to take effective enough precautions on their end. Because if they could not, they would likely just cancel their donations. I would just wear the cloth mask.

Also, make sure to confirm your appointment. Mine have gotten cancelled last minute twice lately because the procedure I do (O+ Power Red) isn’t happening right now. For whatever reason, my area is only doing AB Plasma.
posted by sideshow at 12:20 AM on April 24, 2020 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Your cough or sneeze will not make it through that one way valve. Masks do not filter out the virus. Masks block droplets of bodily fluids that may carry the virus from traveling out/in your nose/mouth from traveling long distances. That one-way valve thing is to make them comfortable to wear for extended periods of time but will also disrupt the airflow going out from a sneeze/cough. If you're worried, just put an extra layer of cloth or paper-towel on the inside over the out-flowing vent to have an extra layer to catch those big droplets. If a cloth face mask is OK and good, your respirator is pretty much just as good at the stopping you from coughing/sneezing into somebody's face as the recommended cloth mask.

Tip: If you breathe calmly, you won't even trigger the outflow valve and your exhale will be filtered.

Take your respirator, and your cloth mask, and ask or let them provide you with a mask. They'll now what's better than the internets will.
posted by zengargoyle at 2:07 AM on April 24, 2020 [6 favorites]

The staff will be taking precautions, you only need to do whatever your personal preference is for yourself. If you over-mask you're going to increase the risk of a vasovagal response that may disrupt your donation.

I donated back in the era that masks were bad not good but there were plenty of precautions being taken. If you're concerned you can call in advance and ask what they'll be doing.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:19 AM on April 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

If you have an N95, why not just wear the N95?
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 1:11 PM on April 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You can put a cloth/surgical mask over the top of a respirator or valved N95 to protect others from your respirations
posted by chiquitita at 3:39 AM on April 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: FWIW, the majority of the staff at the blood center were not wearing N95s, though they did do their best in general. Ideal PPE, under these circumstances, is difficult for any organization right now, and am glad I wore the P100 respirator with a cloth mask on top of the vent. It was by far the most chaotic appointment I've had out of dozens: 40 minute wait, two people came in with same-day appointments and were turned away, staff spread really, really thin. So please bring your patience and good humor with you even more than usual when you donate.

The N95 is not as good at filtration as a P100, which filters out more than 99.9% of micron-sized particles as well as almost all volatile organic compounds. (Just like when you wake up the world looks green because your eyes get used to the red tint, when you take off a respirator you can smell what the air really smells like. For the record, outside air smells unpleasantly like ozone, and Target and the Red Cross smell pleasantly like Tide laundry detergent and hand sanitizer, respectively.) Thanks, all!
posted by wnissen at 2:41 PM on April 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

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