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What Kind of Oxygen Mask Do You Need?

If you’ve ever watched a medical drama on television, then you’ve seen an oxygen mask or two. An oxygen mask is used to transfer oxygen out of a storage tank and into the lungs. The mask usually covers the nose and mouth, but sometimes the mask may cover the entire face. If it only covers the mouth and nose, then it’s known as an oral nasal mask. If it covers the entire face, then it’s known as a full face mask.


It’s possible to get an oxygen mask that’s made of plastic, silicone, or rubber. Healthcare providers normally choose the plastic oxygen mask. The plastic version of the mask is inexpensive and disposable, so upkeep is easy. It’s also very light, so patients aren’t made uncomfortable when wearing them. The biggest plus of the plastic oxygen mask is that healthcare providers can see the patient’s face. This makes it easy to see if the patient is in any pain or distress.


There’s a wide variety of oxygen mask styles available. There are more than two types of oxygen masks used in the medical field. However, the following three types are the most commonly used in hospital settings:

  1. The most widely used type is known as the simple oxygen face mask. This oxygen mask is used for non-life threatening conditions that can possibly worsen. For instance, if a patient comes into the hospital with chest pains, the doctor will more than likely have the patient wear a simple facemask.

    It can be set to deliver a certain amount of oxygen to the patient, but the oxygen may become diluted by air in the room. So if the oxygen mask is loose fitting, a lot of air may enter and mix with the oxygen.

    There is a device that can be attached to the simple oxygen mask to help control the concentration of oxygen called an oxygen concentrator. It can help somewhat, but it doesn’t completely control the oxygen flow.

  2. The non-rebreather oxygen mask is for more serious conditions. This oxygen mask would be used for patients with serious trauma injuries, carbon monoxide poisoning, or any other condition that requires the patient receive a lot of oxygen.

    It uses a reservoir bag where oxygen enters in-between breaths. This kind of oxygen mask also has a valve that stops air in the room from entering the mask. In dire situations, it’s important for the patient to receive pure oxygen undiluted by regular air. So unlike other oxygen masks that sometimes let the patient breathe plain air, this one definitely doesn’t.

    It’s called a non-rebreather oxygen mask because the patient doesn’t need help breathing, they only need the oxygen.

  3. The last type of oxygen mask of the three is called a bag valve mask. This is for critical condition patients who are struggling to breathe, or who have stopped breathing completely. This mask delivers 100 percent pure oxygen. It also has a bag that must be manually squeezed to help the patient breathe. The bag does the work that the lungs aren’t able to do.


You must be sure to get the correct oxygen mask for your situation. If you provide at home medical care, then you probably need a simple face mask in case of emergencies. If you need anything more serious, you will need a doctor’s assistance. For those who work in medical facilities, you’ll probably need more than one type of face mask.