N-95 masks are meant to be used once and shouldn’t be washed, but some can be decontaminated and reused, the FDA said. Smith Collection / Gado / Getty Images

Some face masks can be used even after the manufacturer’s expiry date, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday.

The FDA posted extensive new guides on face masks, surgical masks, and respirators on its website on Tuesday, providing advice on how to use each type.

Some are fine even when old, the FDA said. “Face masks and surgical masks act as protective barriers and may provide some protection even if used beyond the manufacturer’s stated shelf life or expiration date,” advised the agency.

Hospitals, clinics, and other health care facilities have reported bottlenecks and problems in managing personal protective equipment, including face masks. However, certain types shouldn’t be reused, according to the FDA.

“The CDC does not recommend reusing disposable surgical masks that are intended to be used once. The FDA recognizes that there may be public health concerns about the availability of surgical masks during the COVID-19 emergency, but strategies are in place to preserve surgical masks, “the report said.

Respirators such as N-95 masks are single use and should not be washed. However, some can be decontaminated and reused. “The FDA has issued Emergency Use Authorizations (EUAs) for devices that decontaminate certain breathing apparatus,” it says.

Mask protection: While the FDA made frequent references to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, its new website does not reference the CDC’s latest guidelines that face masks are designed to protect both those who wear them and those around them.

“Masks can help prevent people with COVID-19 from spreading the virus to others,” the FDA said. “The CDC recommends that people wear face masks in public places, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. Wearing a face mask can limit exposure to breath droplets and large particles, and help prevent people with COVID-19 from spreading the virus. ”


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