As you return to work and public spaces, your new normal should include mask use. But wearing a face mask changes your routine: how you breathe, how you hold your jaw, how you talk, even how you eat and drink. We hope these tips will clear up some mask misconceptions and alleviate common frustrations you may have when wearing masks.
I’m not sick! Why do I need to wear a face mask?
A major mask misconception is that you don’t need to wear one if you’re not sick. But that’s not true. Wearing a mask provides protection from catching a virus. More importantly, wearing a mask is an act of kindness toward others.
It’s unknown how many of us may be sick asymptomatically. With many viruses, including SARS COV-2, which causes COVID-19, you can shed the virus for days and infect others before any you have any symptoms. Some people may never even develop symptoms, but could be spreading the virus unknowingly for weeks!
Wearing a mask greatly reduces the numbers of viruses that are spread into the air by talking, singing, clearing your throat, burping, coughing or sneezing. So, if most people wear masks, it will greatly slow the spread of illnesses, and prevent our most vulnerable from becoming sick, keep our essential workers safe and prevent our hospitals from becoming overwhelmed.
Wearing a mask gives me a headache!
If you find yourself with an aching head after beginning to wear a mask day in and day out, it could be related to two things: caffeine intake and hydration.
If you typically drink coffee, tea or caffeinated soda throughout your day, you might inadvertently be drinking less because you have a mask on, which can lead to painful withdrawal headaches. Cutting back on caffeine gradually will help if you want to wean off it altogether. Or, you can set a timer on your phone to remind yourself to drink something containing caffeine when you normally would.
You may also find yourself consuming less water than normal, leaving you dehydrated by the end of the day. This can cause headaches and fatigue. Again, set your timer – it will be easier to drink from, and help you stay hydrated!
Face masks disrupt my breathing!
Wearing a mask may can affect how you breathe. You might find yourself taking shallow breaths, or even holding your breath. This can cause you to breathe in more carbon dioxide, which can cause headaches and nausea.
Moving around while wearing a mask can also be fatiguing, because you have to breathe harder to do regular tasks.
And masks may make you feel claustrophobic and anxious, which cause hyperventilating (taking rapid breaths). This will make you feel dizzy, lightheaded, cause numbness and tingling of your lips, and possibly spasms in your hands and feet. You might be hyperventilating and not even realize it.
If you notice any of these symptoms, try some mindful breathing exercises or find a place to be alone without your mask for a few moments while you return your breath to normal.
Face masks fog my glasses!
It’s common for lenses to fog up when wearing a mask. Because of the position of the mask, the warm air from your breath will naturally travel up and may settle as condensation on your lenses.
If you are experiencing this, there are a few tricks worth trying. Washing your glasses with soapy water or using an anti-fogging product are both ways to make your lenses more resistant to condensation. Another solution is to check the fit of your mask, ensuring that the top part of the mask is fit more tightly to your face than the bottom, which will allow respirations to flow downward rather than up.
Wearing a face mask hurts!
Wearing a mask for multiple hours at a time or several days in a row can lead to irritation on the backs of your ears (for those wearing ear-loop masks) or cause sensitive facial skin in general. Fear not! Numerous options exist to relieve pain. Check out these ideas.
Also, consider what your mask is made from. Natural materials like cotton are less likely to cause irritation than synthetic fibers. Still, it’s important to select a tightly-woven material to prevent the spread of viruses if you are making or purchasing homemade masks.
Face masks make me break out!
Acne is caused by the build-up of oil, dirt, skin and bacteria in pores and on your skin. As you can imagine, wearing a mask daily could increase that buildup.
If you are wearing a cloth mask, you must wash it after use, every day. Disposable masks should be thrown away at the end of the day.
Make sure to wash your face twice a day with a gentle cleanser and use moisturizer that won’t clog your pores (noncomedogenic moisturizer). And consider not wearing foundation or makeup under your mask. Some masks may cause skin irritation like eczema or contact dermatitis, which are both itchy and uncomfortable.
If you are following all these steps and still notice irritation or acne, contact your primary care physician, who can recommend a good treatment.
Should you wear a surgical mask, an N95 mask or cloth mask? Find out which mask is best for you.