Spirometry VS Mask Fitting: What Is The Difference?

Respirator Fit Testing infographic

You may be wondering: what is the difference between a Mask-Fit test and spirometry? You will also be excited to read that MedPhysicals Plus offers both mask fitting and spirometry! 

A mask fit test is performed to ensure that a particular type or model of respiratory mask fits properly and provides an effective seal. It is commonly used in occupational health and safety settings, particularly in industries where workers are exposed to hazardous substances or environments. During a mask fit test, an individual wears a specific type of mask, such as an N95 respirator, and undergoes a series of exercises that evaluate the fit and seal of the mask. These exercises can involve movements of the head, speaking, or simulated breathing, while a test agent (such as a bitter or sweet solution) is sprayed inside the mask. The individual’s ability to taste or smell the test agent indicates whether the mask has a proper fit.

Spirometry is a common pulmonary function test that measures how well a person’s lungs function. It assesses lung capacity and airflow by measuring the volume of air inhaled and exhaled, as well as the speed and force of exhalation. A spirometry test can help diagnose respiratory conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and other lung diseases. During the test, an individual breathes into a device called a spirometer, which records various lung function parameters, such as forced vital capacity (FVC), forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1), and peak expiratory flow rate (PEFR).

Spirometry could be considered the most technically and physically demanding. The proper usage techniques and qualifications for an acceptable test are outlined in this article on Medscape here.  Spirometry is required by some workers, according to OSHA, or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Fit testing must be performed initially (before the employee is required to wear the respirator in the workplace) and must be repeated at least annually. Fit testing must also be conducted whenever respirator design or facial changes occur that could affect the proper fit of the respirator. You can learn more about mask fitting in our previous article here.

While mask fit tests focus on the adequacy of the mask seal, spirometry tests provide a broader assessment of lung function and can help identify any underlying respiratory conditions that may affect the individual’s ability to wear respiratory masks effectively. Visit our employer services section of the website at https://medphysicalsplus.com/respirator-fit/ to learn more.